Joe came to Oregon State University (OSU) over 15 years ago to work with a team of researchers focused on understanding the causes of ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, affects motor neuron cells in the spinal cord and causes muscles to weaken over time due to the loss of motor control neurons. Currently there is no cure (yet) for the disease, though there are treatments available that can slow the progression of it.
Hoping to understand at a molecular level the disease initiation, progression and efficacious treatment, Joe funded an upgrade solution for one of the Mass Spectrometry (MS) system at nearly $300,000. This might seem like a large sum of money but when compared to new MS systems ranging in pricing to nearly $1,000,000 it seemed like a good investment at the time. Unfortunately, this upgrade did not work as needed. Joe, while frustrated, was not deterred as he took action by collaborating with additional researchers at OSU to invent new solutions and capabilities within Mass Spectrometry instruments.
Joe Beckman Ph.D
Professor at Oregon State University
OSU researchers have been working in Mass Spectrometry for more than 50 year and specifically, the last 10 years, on an innovative method that has groundbreaking potential to improve the capabilities of existing analytical instruments. The current fragmentation method called Collision Induced Dissociation (CID) has been the standard for nearly thirty years. As the name implies, this technique involves collision of molecules in order to break them apart for analysis. OSU’s novel method (and licensed by e-MSion) is called Electron Capture Dissociation (ECD) and uses low energy electrons to gently fragment molecules.
This new ultra-fast ECD implemented device adds new capabilities to the scientist's’ toolbox, allowing them to conduct research in new ways and across many diverse scientific fields. “It changes how we measure molecules , how you study cancer, how you study drugs, the environments people are exposed to and much more” Beckman said “There is potential for more accurate analysis of industrial environments, chemical warfare agents and the detection of explosives. This new method in mass spectrometry could provide a wealth of opportunities for new research across many disciplines.”
Researchers at OSU are able to sequence and analyze complex molecules at a rate of speed that was previously impossible. All of this happens while simultaneously being able to produce results that see deeper into the molecular structure, much more accurate (less false positives), and cleaner spectra than existing analytical methods.
Interestingly, new technologies have been more accessible at OSU than most medical schools. Hence, there has been more progress in research at OSU than many medical schools. "I'm hoping to emphasize the importance of research on this campus," Beckman said. "Science is truly international, and it reaches far beyond Corvallis." With this sentiment in mind, Joe formed a new company e-MSIon, launched the company in August 2015, to develop and evolve the core technology.
When scientists are able to reach new plateaus within existing research methods, the results can be dramatic. As we can understand more in this molecular level, we see the potential for many other groundbreaking discoveries.
This technology is being developed in an effort to further research in many fields across the world. This sentiment of science for the sake of humanity was expressed well by e-MSion intent with this technology – ECD for the Masses.