Mizzou grads start company that uses genomics tools to identify food allergens

COLUMBIA, 11/29/12 (Beat Byte) -- A business that looks for food allergy-causing materials in natural and genetically-modified seeds is another new entrant in Columbia's growing technology startup sector.
Founded in 2011, PepPro Analytics on S. Providence uses so-called "targeted proteomics" -- the protein version of genomics -- to characterize and quantify proteins that might cause food allergies.
Adverse responses to food proteins, food allergies can cause minor allergic reactions such as dermatitis or lead to major allergic reactions such as anaphylactic shock and death.  

PepPro uses high-tech methods to quantify potential food allergens at ultra-small levels, including mass spectrometry (MS) and liquid chromatography (LC).   The methods separate proteins based on their amino acid make up.  Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. 
With each amino acid assigned a letter such as K, I, S, M, or E, the separation process can lead to some interesting amino acid combinations:  KISSME or MISSME, for instance.   With each arrangement representing a real protein, one amino acid combination might be harmless; the other, a serious food allergen. 
PepPro founder Jay Thelen and research manager Severin Stevenson both received biochemistry doctorates at Mizzou. Thelen is also an associate professor in the biochemistry department.