Services by Turku Bioscience, part 2: Proteomics reveals the secrets of proteins

Proteomics is the study of proteomes, or the entire set of proteins produced by an organism. The Proteomics Facility at Turku Bioscience, led by Otto Kauko, offers researchers and companies world-class research equipment and up-to-date expertise on their utilisation.

​​​​​Dr. Otto Kauko joined Turku Bioscience as Head of Turku Proteomics Facility in 2021. Kauko, who did his doctoral thesis in Jukka Westermarck’s group, had been away from Turku for four years – in Stockholm, Cambridge and Helsinki – but a five-year fixed-term assignment as head of the Proteomics Facility brought him back to Southwest Finland.

The Turku Proteomics Facility uses mass spectrometry based methods to identify and quantify proteins. Like all other Turku Bioscience units, the Proteomics Facility has expensive equipment that requires special expertise to use.

– Thanks to our Facility, not everyone has to buy expensive methods to have access to it for their research. A key part of our operations is to follow the latest research and technology trends, keep our finger on the pulse and learn new methods as they emerge, Kauko sums up.

Proteomics wears many hats

Proteomics is a key method in many biological disciplines such as fields such as immunological research, neuroscience, and cancer research. One way proteomics is used is to search for biomarkers that can be used as a predictor of a particular disease.

– An important part of proteomics is investigating the interactions of proteins – for example with pharmaceuticals. The Proteomics Facility can help the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi profiling in drug development, Kauko says. In Stockholm, he worked with a technique called thermal proteome profiling. Now, the same technology has been established in Turku.

Proteomics is not only used to study human cells; it is also an essential method for fields such as molecular plant biology where the University of Turku is conducting world-class research. Proteomics can be used in photosynthesis research, for example.

Kauko himself is specialised in cellular signal transduction and protein phosphorylation. A separate research group is also being set up.

Keeping equipment up to date

Biomedical technology is evolving at a tremendous pace, and equipment needs to be upgraded to match it. This means that the service units need to update their equipment regularly.

In proteomics, the equipment needs to be updated every few years, but our technology is more or less up-to-date at the moment. Equipment purchases are supported by BioCenter Finland, for example.

– Our current equipment covers a comprehensive range of features. Turku has particularly invested in separation techniques that reveal more information about the samples. There are two new pieces of separation technology equipment, the ZipChip, which is based on capillary electrophoresis, and FAIMS, which is based on gas phase ion mobility. They will enable deep characterisations, sensitive analyses of low-abundance analytes, and high throughput analyses of large sample panels, Kauko explains.

Using equipment is affordable and well instructed

At the Turku Proteomics Facility, customers can use the equipment independently after thorough orientation. The experiments can also be ordered as a service, for example from another country, in which case one of the five employees at the facility performs the work.

The facility carries out approximately 70 projects per year for about 40 user groups. This means that the equipment has a high utilisation rate. Partners include both Finnish and foreign universities.

– About 70% of our customers are local, and the rest are in Finland and abroad. All in all, we have an active international network, Kauko says.

The Proteomics Facility offers services and the use of its equipment for a fee, which is nonprofit for internal users, and slightly higher but still reasonable for external academic users. ​

> Read more about the proteomics services

> Services by Turku Bioscience, part 1: Genomics is the study of genetic variation and genome regulation

Watch an introduction video of the facility from the year 2017