Howard Dewald helps unlock new method for testing protein-based drugs

Published: October 4, 2022 Author: Staff reports

A 15-year collaboration between chemists Howard Dewald and Hao Chen recently contributed to the unlocking of a new method for testing protein-based drugs such as monoclonal antibodies that saved lives during the pandemic.

The partnership between Dewald, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Chen began at Ohio University. It continued while Dewald spent several years in leadership roles in the college and in the Provost's Office and when Chen accepted a post the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

In their latest work, "researchers have unveiled a new lab technique they say represents a 'paradigm shift' in how pharmaceutical laboratories test and produce new protein-based drugs, such as therapeutic monoclonal antibodies being developed to treat a variety of diseases, from cancers to infectious diseases," according to an NJIT news release.

This new testing method could reduce the time and cost of pharmaceutical testing through the use of mass spectrometry to quantify proteins.

"Proteomics, or the study of proteins, currently relies on the use of synthetic stable isotope-labeled peptides or proteins as internal standards. But these peptide standards are costly and time-consuming to synthesize," Dewald said. "Our new testing method doesn't require these standards. Instead we developed a coulometric mass spectrometry (CMS) approach based on the electrochemical oxidation of surrogate peptides, followed by mass spectrometry measurement of the peptide oxidation yield. The result is 'absolute quantitation' or measurement," Dewald said.

"My contribution is toward the electrochemical experiment design and analysis," Dewald said. This paper, described in the journalĀ Analytical Chemistry, was a follow-up to one published in 2020 that demonstrated the coulometric approach for quantitation.

Dewald said their work continues and will expand to a largescale set of proteins.