Jules Moritz, Mike Brown, Charles Otis, Joe Beckman, Valery Voinov, Nathan Lopez and Yury Vasilev of e-MSion.

e-MSion, a new spinoff company of Oregon State University research, has developed a mass spectrometry technology to analyze complex molecules with unprecedented speed and accuracy at a lower cost. It paves the way for better medical tests and environmental monitoring.

Mass spectrometry is used by scientists and industry to identify complex molecules in real-world samples. Molecules are weighed and then fragmented, giving them specific identifiable fingerprints. The current standard approach, known as Collision-Induced Dissociation (CID), fragments sample molecules by random collisions with gas molecules. While effective, CID can shatter molecules too far and cause inaccurate results.

The technology pioneered by e-MSion uses Electron Capture Dissociation (ECD) to fragment molecules with greater precision using low-energy electrons. These more specific fragments provide unprecedented information about proteins and other complex biological molecules.

The discovery

After ten years of development at Oregon State University, e-MSion co-founders Valery Voinov, Doug Barofsky, Yury Vasilev and Joe Beckman made the technology practical for use in today’s most common mass spectrometers. The driving force was the need to better understand how proteins function normally and how they malfunction to cause major disease.

Beckman, a distinguished professor and principal investigator at Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute, is using the innovative ECD mass spectrometry to determine how a protein called SOD causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The technology enables analysis of how proteins are modified by disease, which is critical for understanding, detecting and treating neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and cancer. 

The advanced discoveries in ECD technology has potential uses in environmental research to measure what chemicals people are exposed to at home, at work and in the community. It also has broad applications for monitoring industrial processes, detecting threats from natural disasters or terrorism, improving common medical tests and helping law enforcement detect illicit drugs.   

e-MSion’s business model

e-MSion has obtained an exclusive license for the patented technology through Oregon State University. The current target audience includes owners of older mass spectrometry equipment in corporate research organizations and universities. Depending on sales, the company may look for additional investors.

“This is a multibillion dollar industry,” says Mike Brown, e-MSion CEO. “Thousands of people are doing research, but only a few hundred develop new mass spectrometry technology. It puts us in a great position.”

e-MSion’s technology can be used as a device to upgrade older mass spectrometry systems, or it can be placed in brand-new systems. Both options are easily customizable.

The company’s initial go-to-market strategy is to take older mass spectrometry systems and upgrade them for a fraction of the cost of a new system.

“New systems cost anywhere between $300,000 and $1 million,” Brown says. “We can upgrade that system to a state-of-the-art version for $30,000, which will be our early adopters pricing.”

Brown adds that the e-MSion team has been able to build a business out of its technology thanks to Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator program.

“Our team learned there is as much science in growing and developing a business as there is in making our devices,” he says.

e-MSion’s immediate business goal is to prove the technology works and publish with leading researchers.

“We want to make the researchers excited to use the technology to accomplish what is now impossible, advancing research into new frontiers. At the same time, the technology will accelerate the transformation of mass spectrometry to become a practical everyday appliance in many businesses,” Brown says.

And they’re well on their way.

For more information on e-MSion and mass spectrometry, visit e-MSion.com.