Letters to the editor
Credit for technology in Berkeley-Novartis partnership
I read with interest your recent article on a collaboration between UC Berkeley and Novartis to address challenging drug targets (April 23, page 24). In this article, you describe a chemical proteomic platform that is critical to the collaboration, and you repeatedly refer to it as “Nomura’s platform.” This description does not tell the whole story.
The platform, scientifically termed isoTOP-ABPP, originated with the pioneering work of then-postdoctoral-fellows and now-professors Eranthie Weerapana (Boston College) and Chu Wang (Peking University), who devised a chemical proteomic method to site-specifically quantify cysteine reactivity on a global scale in native biological systems and used this approach to show that reactivity was highly predictive of cysteine functionality across diverse protein classes (Nature 2010, DOI: 10.1038/nature09472).
Wang then proceeded to show that the isoTOP-ABPP platform could be implemented in a competitive mode to map the proteome-wide reactivity of cysteine-directed electrophilic compounds and applied it to identify novel targets of lipid-derived electrophiles (Nat. Methods 2013, DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.2759). In 2016, then-postdoctoral-fellows and now-professors Keriann Backus (UCLA) and Bruno Correia (EPFL) combined competitive isoTOP-ABPP and fragment electrophile libraries to discover cysteine-reactive covalent ligands for hundreds of proteins in the human proteome, including many that originate from historically undruggable classes (Nature 2016, DOI: 10.1038/nature18002). Thereafter, the Nomura lab has applied isoTOP-ABPP to further assess covalent drug space across the proteome in a series of interesting studies (for example, ACS Chem. Biol. 2017, DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.7b00020 and DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.6b01158; Cell Chem. Biol. 2017, DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2017.08.013).
It is, of course, exciting to see platform technologies implemented by many research groups, as such distributed efforts accelerate basic and translational research discoveries. However, as platforms become more broadly disseminated, it is important that their origins are not obfuscated. With this concern in mind, if you feel compelled to assign ownership to the chemical proteomic platform under discussion, please instead name it after its originators—the Weerapana/Wang/Backus/Correia platform. Or, alternatively, just refer to the platform by its aforementioned scientific acronym. Either way, I hope that, in the future, you will show greater care to avoid ascribing the origins of technology platforms to avid users rather than originators, even if the latter do not have the stage or inclination to tout their innovations.
Benjamin F. Cravatt
La Jolla, Calif.