Made-in-Canada Software Probes Building Blocks of Life

Bin Ma started Bioinformatics Solutions in 2000 and the company is already widely recognized for its award-winning PEAKS Software. The product is able to assist chemists in identifying completely new proteins that could be used in developing new drugs or detecting diseases even before birth. It is faster and more accurate than anything else on the market, according to one chemist.

Most lay people reading the results of a mass spectrometry peptide analysis, wouldn’t make head nor tails of it, but with Randy Whittal it’s a different story. Used to poring over such data for hours and manually putting together the puzzle pieces that when completed, for Whittal the analysis would reveal a brand new biological structure.

Peptides, or small proteins, are a collection of amino acids, strung together to create life. Without these basic strings of biological matter that emerged from the Earth’s primordial soup, humanity – and all life on Earth – simply wouldn’t exist. It’s no wonder that modern-day chemists are looking for the best tools available to help them understand these building blocks of life.

For Whittal, the director of mass spectrometry in the department of chemistry at the University of Alberta, a pencil and paper powered by his own brain was the best tool to do that. Until he found PEAKS software, powered by Waterloo, Ont.-based Bioinformatics Solutions Inc.