Joshua LaBaer is one of the nation’s foremost investigators in the rapidly expanding field of personalized diagnostics. His efforts focus on the discovery and validation of biomarkers — unique molecular fingerprints of disease — which can provide early warning for those at risk of major illnesses, including cancer and diabetes. Formerly founder and director of the Harvard Institute of Proteomics, LaBaer was recruited to ASU’s Biodesign Institute as the first Piper Chair in Personalized Medicine in 2009. The Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics (VGPCPD) has a highly multidisciplinary staff of molecular biologists, cell biologists, biochemists, software engineers, database specialists, bioinformaticists, biostatisticians, and automation engineers. VGPCPD applies open reading frame clones to the high throughput (HT) study of protein function. In addition, his group invented a novel protein microarray technology, Nucleic Acid Programmable Protein Array, which has been used widely for biomedical research, including the recent discovery of a panel of 28 autoantibody biomarkers that may aid the early diagnosis of breast cancer. LaBaer earned his medical degree and a doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics, from the University of California, San Francisco. He completed his medical residency at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a clinical fellowship in oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, both in Boston. He has contributed more than 140 original research publications, reviews and chapters. LaBaer is an associate editor of the Journal of Proteome Research, a recent member of the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors, Chair of the Early Detection Research Network Steering Committee and recent president of the U.S. Human Proteome Organization.
Self-assembling protein microarrays arrays can be used to study protein-protein interactions, protein-drug interactions, search for enzyme substrates, and as tools to search for disease biomarkers. In particular, recent experiments have focused on using these protein microarrays to search for autoantibody responses in cancer patients. These experiments show promise in finding antibody responses that appear in only cancer patients. New methods using click chemistry-based reagents also allow the application of these arrays for discovering new substrates of post translational modification.