A newsletter published in partnership between TMIC and the Metabolomics Society
Issue 28 - December 2013


Online version of this newsletter:

Welcome to the twenty-eighth issue of MetaboNews, a monthly newsletter published in partnership between The Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC, and the international Metabolomics Society (, to keep metabolomics researchers and other professionals informed about new technologies, software, databases, events, job postings, conferences, training opportunities, interviews, publications, awards, and other newsworthy items concerning metabolomics. MetaboNews now represents the one-stop-shop for the very latest and most critical news about the science of metabolomics. In this issue, we feature a Software Spotlight article on MRMPROBS, software for multiple reaction monitoring based widely targeted metabolomics and a metabolomics interview with Theodore Sana of Agilent Technologies.

This issue of MetaboNews is supported by:

Biocrates --
                                Standardized Metabolic Phenotyping  
Chenomx --
                                Metabolite Discovery & Measurement
Biocrates Life Sciences AG

Chenomx Inc.

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Metabolomics Society News

Korea Metabolomics Society partners with the international Metabolomics Society

As part of the international Metabolomics Society’s mission to work more closely with both regional and national metabolomics communities across the global, with the aim to jointly advance and promote the development and application of metabolomics, we are very pleased to announce a new partnership between the Korea Metabolomics Society and the international Metabolomics Society. The Korea Metabolomics Society, KoMetS (, was founded in July 2012 following two earlier national metabolomics conferences in April 2010 and 2011. With metabolomics research growing rapidly in Korea and because of the success of these earlier conferences, they are now run annually as the flagship event of the national KoMetS. The international Metabolomics Society looks forward to greater collaboration with this national organization.

With the primary metabolomics networks in Australia, New Zealand, France and Korea now in partnership with the international Metabolomics Society, collectively representing more than a thousand metabolomics researchers, a trajectory has been set for genuine global co-operation and synergies in our field of metabolomics. Consequently the international Metabolomics Society is very keen to develop further relationships with regional and national initiatives in the near future. Please contact the Chair of the International Affiliations Task Group Ute Roessner ( for further information.

Membership renewal for 2014 will begin soon

Soon the Membership committee will begin contacting members for the renewal of their membership for 2014 (membership in the Society is based on the calendar year, so all current members will have to renew their membership to stay in good standing). We hope that you have enjoyed being part of and benefitted from the considerable expansion of the Metabolomics Society during the past 12 months, and will remain a loyal member of our growing community. As the society continues to expand, we expect to be able to offer further membership benefits including discounted member registration at the 10th Annual Metabolomics Society Conference in Tsuruoka, Japan and for new Regional/Topical meetings (please see the announcement of the joint meeting hosted by the RSC and the international Metabolomics Society below). Student members with over 3 months standing are also able to apply for our Student Prize and Travel Awards. Remember to renew early to take advantage of our early bird discounted registration fees

Member benefits (for all Members)
1. No membership fee increases for 2014.
2. Networking and information exchange with an international membership of professionals devoted to furthering metabolomics related science: via conferences and workshops, the Society’s many Interest Groups, and social media including the Society’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.
3. Discounted registration fees for Metabolomics Society conferences.
4. Subscription for electronic access (and optional print copies*) to the Metabolomics journal, the official publication of the Society.
5. Receive information and electronic notices of metabolomics conferences, workshops and seminars.
6. Posting of job advertisements on the Society's website and via Twitter.
7. Monthly electronic update on the Society's activities.
8. Eligibility to nominate individuals for an Honorary Fellowship of the Society** and to vote in Society elections.
9. Eligibility to stand for Office within the Society**.
* Additional fee applies, see registration website; Members will also have electronic access to all issues and therefore print copies of back issues will not be available to Members who register late in the calendar year.
** Not applicable for Student Members.
Further benefits for Student Members
Students who are active members more than 3 months prior to a Metabolomics Society conference are also eligible to:
10. Apply for Metabolomics Society student travel awards.
11. Apply for Metabolomics Society student prizes.

Please note: Due to an upcoming website migration, membership renewal is not currently open.

Early-Career Members Network (EMN)

The EMN is dedicated to, and run by early-career scientists who are members of the Metabolomics Society and are from either academia, government or industry. The network aims to provide a forum for metabolomics researchers at the start of their professional career. Given the unique challenges of researchers who are in the early stages of their careers, the mission of this committee is to recognize the value and importance of our early-career members, to ensure that their views are heard and acted upon, ultimately improving their experience of metabolomics science and our community.

Who we are
The EMN committee consists of a total of nine members, six in the UK, one in Japan, one in Germany, and one in the USA. Because the main international conference was held in the UK in 2013, the majority of applicants were from the UK or Europe. To expand our networking worldwide, we are very keen to work towards greater diversification outside of the UK. As such, we highly encourage early career members from all over the world to join us in the EMN. In this issue, we introduce nine early-career researchers who form the Early-Career Members Network Committee:
Planned activities
The EMN have also developed several ideas for activities in the coming year—such as leading the Metabolomics Society training, catalogue global training opportunities in metabolomics, contribute each month to MetaboNews newsletter, develop a EMN section on the Metabolomics Society website, and promote the society activities through several social media platforms, to name but a few. We are also delighted to announce that we will be holding a workshop next year at the 10th Annual International Conference of the Metabolomics Society held in June 23-26 at Tsuruoka, Japan. Please, follow us on Twitter (@MetabolomicsSoc) and Facebook (Metabolomics Society) to stay up-to-date on all news and upcoming events.

Call for ideas
Please feel free to contact us via if you have any suggestions for the workshop. Furthermore, we are hoping to receive comments on our planned activities and further ideas for activities that the EMN could organize. The EMN can only be a success with your support and ideas!!

Status of Data Standards
This section is contributed regularly by Christoph Steinbeck (Chair of the Society’s Data Standards Task Group) and Reza Salek ( from the EMBL-EBI, Cambridge UK.
We are planning to have an “mzTab for metabolomics” workshop in Tübingen (in March 2014) for discussion and work on metabolomics extensions for mzTab. We hope to adopt and finalize the format and eventually submit it to the community for review. The workshop is organised jointly by Steffen Neumann (Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, IPB Halle) and Oliver Kohlbacher (Tübingen University), one of the leading members in the mzTab development in the PSI. For details, please visit

2014 Honorary Fellows of the Metabolomics Society
An Honorary Fellowship is a significant lifetime award granted by the Society to exceptional members of our community. Commissioned in 2012, and with up to two awards each year, the Board of Directors welcomes nominations for these Fellowships, with a closing date of February 1st, 2014. See for further details.


Metabolomics journal, Vol. 9, Issue 6, December 2013
See the latest issue of our journal at:
In addition to the many excellent research papers, each issue contains a section of typically four pages that is contributed by the Society. For the December 2013 issue there are two short pieces:
•    News: The year in review: Highlights of the Metabolomics Society in 2013
•    News: Metabolomics Society Board Election 2013: introduction of new board members

Stay abreast of the latest metabolomics news via the Twitter feed on the front page of the website. Also you can follow us on Twitter: Metabolomics Society @MetabolomicsSoc and Metabolomics journal @Metabolomics. And you can visit us on Facebook.


Software Spotlight


MRMPROBS: Software for multiple reaction monitoring based widely targeted metabolomics

Feature article contributed by Hiroshi Tsugawa, Postdoctoral Researcher, RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science, 1-7-22 Suehiro-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa, 230-0045, Japan

We developed a new software program, MRMPROBS, for widely targeted metabolomics. Widely targeted metabolomics is a metabolomics approach based on “large-scale” multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) or selected reaction monitoring (SRM) using a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer. This strategy became increasingly popular for the simultaneous analysis of up to several hundred metabolites at high sensitivity, selectivity, and quantitative capability.

In order to easily handle the large MRM data sets, the software should solve two important issues:
To meet these requirements, we recently developed the MRMPROBS software (Figure 1).

Click the thumbnail image below to view a larger image.

Screenshot of MRMPROBS

Figure 1. Screenshot of MRMPROBS.

This software, the manual, and the sample files are freely available from the RIKEN website ( The researchers can get an organized data matrix for statistical analysis easily and quickly by means of MRMPROBS. Moreover, this program also implements a probabilistic scoring system for each peak detected from the MRM chromatograms. It evaluates the metabolite peaks by posterior probability, defined as the odds ratio by means of a newly optimized multivariate logistic regression model. The predictors consist of five variables (Figure 2):
  1. Peak intensity
  2. Retention time similarity
  3. Amplitude ratio similarity between the target transition and the qualifier transition
  4. Peak top differential similarity of a peak group
  5. Peak shape similarity of a peak group
Variables summary

Figure 2. Variables summary.

These predictors are integrated in MRMPROBS and the novel scoring system enabled us to filter not only noise peaks but also isomeric metabolite peaks without label compounds. Importantly, the objective criterion facilitates the meaningful and useful assessment of identification results. Because the software supports all data processing methods from the raw data import to the construction of the data matrix. (Actually, some statistical analyses are also available in MRMPROBS.) As such, it is a useful and practical tool for the assessment of large-scale MRM data sets.

Recently, we released a Microsoft Excel-based statistical analysis platform for further statistical analyses such as principal component analysis (PCA) and projection to latent structure-based multivariate analysis (PLS-R, PLS-DA, Figure 3). Although the MRMPROBS software provides a useful platform to construct a data matrix, it is also very important to provide the statistical analysis platform for metabolomics studies. To easily re-arrange the figures or tables of statistical results, we provide an Excel macro platform via the RIKEN PRIMe web site ( Follow the link: “Targeted and Non-targeted analysis software” -> “Tool for statistical analysis on Microsoft Excel”).

Overview of the Excel-based statistical analysis

Figure 3. Overview of the Excel-based statistical analysis platform.

Nowadays, metabolomics-based methods have been frequently performed in many research fields, due to excellent platforms. These platforms include not only data analysis but also sample preparation, metabolite extraction methods, and analytical methods. However, we must develop more useful and more innovative techniques to spread metabolomics all over the world. Of course, MRMPROBS is still being improved with the researcher's needs in mind. We offer practical metabolomics techniques including data processing methods and analytical methods.


Please note: If you know of any metabolomics research programs, software, databases, statistical methods, meetings, workshops, or training sessions that we should feature in future issues of this newsletter, please email Ian Forsythe at



MetaboInterviews features interviews with prominent researchers in the field of metabolomics. The aim of these interviews is to shed light on metabolomics researchers around the world and give them an opportunity to share their metabolomics story. In this issue, we feature an interview with Theodore Sana.

Theodore Sana

Global metabolomics program manager for metabolomics & lipidomics at Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA

 Theodore Sana


Dr. Theodore Sana joined Agilent Technologies in 2000 as an R&D scientist, shortly after the company was spun-off from HP. He helped develop the in situ synthesized oligonucleotide microarray platform, for which he has received several patents. In 2004 he transferred to the Systems Biology (SB) group in Agilent Laboratories, to explore and develop methods for proteomics and metabolomics workflows using multidimensional LC and mass spectrometry. A critical part of this job was the establishment of several academic collaborations with leaders in the field, to better understand key requirements for integrative omics analysis, which resulted in the SB group developing several pieces of software. In 2007 Theodore joined the newly formed metabolomics group in Agilent’s Business Unit. Currently he is the global metabolomics program manager for metabolomics & lipidomics. In his present position, he has been able to leverage his broad scientific training to help grow Agilent’s metabolomics business. This involves business development, as well as creating and deploying metabolomics related marketing campaigns, and managing scientific collaborations with key opinion leaders. All of these activities help advance Agilent’s integrative metabolomics solutions.

Metabolomics Interview (MN, MetaboNews; TS, Theodore Sana)

MN: How did you get involved in metabolomics?

TS: Actually, I was asked by my manager at the time if I was interested in exploring metabolomics. This was in 2005 when I was a senior scientist in the “Systems Biology” group of Agilent Laboratories. We were a pretty small group of analytical chemists, bioinformaticists, and programmers; at the time Agilent Labs was the central research arm of Agilent. Tasked by my manager, I started researching metabolomics/metabonomics, evaluating the next generation of technologies that may be of interest to Agilent. Up to that time I had been heavily involved in developing relationships with academic researchers.

MN: What are some of the most exciting aspects of your work in metabolomics?

TS: When I started back in 2005 I was really focused on understanding and overcoming some of the analytical challenges, especially for untargeted LC/MS. It was quite fortunate to be given the freedom to delve “deep” into the literature, see what others had published and what the prevailing thoughts were. At the time, the community was very excited about the potential for metabolomics. Moreover, I was in a position to build a laboratory with access to the latest Agilent instrumentation, and then design and perform experiments on my own, and in collaboration with other scientists in academia. This period of time was one of significant scientific growth for me and I soon realized that because the field of metabolomics was so broadly defined, I needed to focus on a few solutions that would ultimately be of interest to Agilent. In the last few years I can say that my interests have shifted almost entirely to software. We are very fortunate to have a very talented pool of software engineers (both internal to the organization and contracted) that I get to work with every day. It’s very exciting and rewarding to work on a project from inception, serve on the project team to see the evolution of the product, test the product, and put it into the hands of our customers, where it hopefully helps solve a data processing problem. I see this as the biggest differentiator today: developing software tools that can process and help interpret “big data” in a timely fashion.

MN: What key metabolomics initiatives are you pursuing at your research centre or institute?

TS: There are several metabolomics initiatives in our company. Broadly speaking, at the business unit level they are defined by our existing as well as potential new markets, and encompass all our major instrument platforms: LC/MS, GC/MS, ICP-MS, and NMR. For example, we are developing or applying our metabolomics solutions for the disease, diagnostic and clinical, food/nutrition, synthetic biology/biofuels, toxicology, lipids analysis, chemometric (or non-life sciences) analyses, and integrated biology markets. In addition, each year our University Relations (UR) outreach program offers various competitive grants, that require an Agilent sponsor (mentor) to fund a graduate student for one year. Agilent UR also has a program to fund a select few Thought Leaders, with substantial funds and instrumentation. These Thought Leaders span several different areas of research, including metabolomics. Over the years I have sponsored a number of UR grants. This year I was asked to “champion” a Thought Leader grant, which is essentially an agreement to collaborate over a one to three year period. Our laboratories engage on Design of Experiments (DOE), analytical methodologies and optimization, and data analysis. Software training is always a big part of this. Typically this can take up 10% of my time and so I’m involved in only one Thought Leader program at any given time.

MN: What is happening in your country in terms of metabolomics?

TS: Although I’m personally based in Santa Clara, California, Agilent is a global company, with many centers in many different countries. There are certainly regionally specific requests and areas of research focus that one finds to predominate in certain regions over others. For example, in China there are many requests for metabolomics analysis of traditional herbal medicines that does not occur in other countries.

In recognition of both the emergence and importance of metabolomics in the United States, the NIH Common Fund has recently announced that it aims to invest over $50.0 million in metabolomics grants over the next five years. Several Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores, the recipients of these funds, have recently been announced, including one at UC Davis, here in California. Their mandate is to increase the awareness and the research capacity for metabolomics across the USA.

MN: How do you see your work in metabolomics being applied today or in the future?

TS: The work that I have done in metabolomics has always been part of a group effort. Whether that has impacted how we recommend doing metabolite extractions from samples, or the development of various columns and hardware solutions, and especially software, this has always been a team effort. I find great satisfaction when our customers are successful in conducting their research based on some or all of our solutions and recommendations. That is how I would like to see it continue into the future as new products are developed.

MN: As you see it, what are metabolomics' greatest strengths?

TS: I think the greatest inherent strength of metabolomics is in being the closest “omic” to the phenotype of an organism. I think it also has tremendous potential as a scientific discipline to help validate or refute our current understanding of biological pathways, identify novel metabolic pathways, and become a critical tool for systems biology and synthetic biology applications.

MN: What do you see as the greatest barriers for metabolomics?

TS: I think a significant barrier remains the challenge of unambiguously identifying metabolites. Untargeted or discovery-based metabolomics requires sophisticated, expensive instruments, several different separation and detection technologies for comprehensive analysis, and well trained analytical scientists. The issue of standards has also been raised in the past. There have been a few attempts to begin addressing this very important issue, which I think will require agreement and coordination between academia, industry, and instrument manufacturers.

MN: What improvements, technological or otherwise, need to take place for metabolomics to really take off?

TS: That’s a really good question and I wish I knew all the answers! I can say that it will require: (a) minimizing technical variability through automation, (b) minimizing analytical variability through the routine inclusion of common sets of standards that are robust during routine chromatographic separation, (c) detection techniques, and (d) QC metrics for an experiment, analogous to the common practices adopted for microarrays—such as Agilent arrays, and finally software, software, software!

MN: How does the future look in terms of funding for metabolomics?

TS: I see an increased recognition by funding agencies for the importance of metabolomics. So the funding situation looks strong. I think many scientists who traditionally have been well funded experts in proteomics, are now incorporating metabolomics technologies in their laboratories as well.

MN: What role can metabolomics standards play?

TS: There is certainly a role for standards. I think we must recognize that metabolomics is a broad field, and often analytical chemists, biologists, and clinicians don’t always have shared views on this subject. So there has to be compromise and it has to be affordable. I certainly support the NIH-sponsored Metabolomics Standards Workshop and efforts such as these to propose common standards for reporting metabolomics results.

MN: Do you have any other comments that you wish to share about metabolomics?

TS: I think these are exciting times for students entering metabolomics as it has such broad applications, particularly towards improving our quality of life: whether through profiling environmental metabolites and metabolic by-products in the soil or water, or plant phytochemicals, in food, health, disease, tailoring drug dosage in pharmaco-metabolomics for “personalized” medicine, or “Green” technologies such as biofuels—there is plenty of room for both R&D. I also see metabolomics as a great example of a where academia and instrument vendors with strong R&D programs can combine forces to tackle some of the difficult problems.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of a dear colleague of mine, Allan Kuchinsky, who passed away this summer. Many readers, especially those in the Cytoscape community will recognize his name. He was responsible for my transferring from R&D to the Systems Biology group in Labs. His work ethic and dedication to his academic collaborators, some of the leading research groups in Systems Biology, served as an example of Agilent Labs’ spirit for both identifying and developing key technologies that ultimately benefit our customers.
Biomarker Beacon

Biomarker Beacon

Feature article contributed by Ian Forsythe, Editor, MetaboNews, Department of Computing Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Metabolomics is an emerging field that is complementary to other omics sciences and that is gaining increasing interest across all disciplines. Because of metabolomics' unique advantages, it is now being applied in functional genomics, integrative and systems biology, pharmacogenomics, and biomarker discovery for drug development and therapy monitoring. A substantial number of biomarkers are small molecules or metabolites (MW <1500 Da), which can be used for disease testing, drug testing, toxic exposure testing, and food consumption tracking. While standard clinical assays are limited in the number and type of compounds that can be detected, metabolomics measures many more compounds. Since a single compound is not always the best biomarker (diagnostic, prognostic, or predictive), healthcare practitioners can use metabolomic information about multiple compounds to make better medical decisions. Global metabolic profiling is now being used to determine clinical biomarkers in assessing the pathophysiological health status of patients.

In the following two recent studies, metabolomic approaches were used to develop tools for the identification of biomarkers associated with Alzheimer's disease and advanced fibrosis, respectively.
  1. Motsinger-Reif AA, Zhu H, Kling MA, Matson W, Sharma S, Fiehn O, Reif DM, Appleby DH, Doraiswamy PM, Trojanowski JQ, Kaddurah-Daouk R, Arnold SE. Comparing metabolomic and pathologic biomarkers alone and in combination for discriminating Alzheimer's disease from normal cognitive aging. Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2013 Jun 27;1(1):28. [PMID: 24252434]

    Reliable markers to predict individuals at risk for cognitive decline due to Alzheimer's disease (AD) are sorely lacking. With better markers, individuals at risk could be treated at earlier stages of the disease, thus slowing its progression. In this study, researchers sought to compare cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) metabolites from patients with AD dementia with those from cognitively normal subjects. They used gas chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOF-MS) and liquid chromatography ECA array (LC-ECA), to compare metabolites from the above two patient groups. The research team discovered that metabolites identified using either method provided accurate markers for differentiating between clinical AD participants and controls (area under the curve results of 0.70 for GC-TOF-MS and 0.96 for LC-ECA, compared to 0.92 for the traditional CSF Luminex immunoassay amyloid-beta and tau biomarkers). This work demonstrates the potential of two metabolomics platforms, GC-TOF-MS and LC-ECA, to provide predictive performance for AD.

  2. Tokushige K, Hashimoto E, Kodama K, Tobari M, Matsushita N, Kogiso T, Taniai M, Torii N, Shiratori K, Nishizaki Y, Ohga T, Ohashi Y, Sato T. Serum metabolomic profile and potential biomarkers for severity of fibrosis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. J Gastroenterol. 2013 Mar 13. [Epub ahead of print] [PMID: 23478936]

    There is a need for novel biomarkers to diagnose and assess the level of severity of advanced fibrosis in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In this study, the research team sought to utilize a metabolomics-based approach to differentiate between NAFLD patients and healthy control subjects. They analyzed low molecular weight serum metabolites from an initial cohort of 44 NAFLD patients, followed by a validation cohort of 105 NAFLD patients, 26 primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) patients, and 48 healthy controls using capillary electrophoresis and liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry. In the initial cohort, they discovered a set of 28 metabolites associated with advanced fibrosis. Of the 28 metabolites, four sulfated steroids stood out in particular. The researchers discovered that the levels of 16 hydroxydehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (16-OH-DHEA-S) increased with the progression of fibrosis. On the other hand, they also found two metabolites that decreased with the progression of fibrosis, namely 5α-androstan-3β ol-17-one sulfate (etiocholanolone-S) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S). As this study demonstrates, these metabolites may prove to be useful as biomarkers for assessing the severity of fibrosis in patients with NAFLD.
Metabolomics Current

Metabolomics Current Contents

Recently published papers in metabolomics:


28 Nov 2013

Diagnosing colonic polyps: an interview with Dr. Haili Wang, Metabolomic Technologies Inc. (MTI)

April Cashin-Garbutt of News Medical interviewed Dr. Haili Wang, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Metabolomic Technologies Inc. In this interview, Dr. Wang responds to questions, such as:
  1. What prompted MTI to develop a test for colonic polyps, the precursor to colorectal cancer?
  2. Please can you outline how the urine test works?
  3. How accurate is the test at detecting colonic polyps? How has this been tested?
  4. What were the main hurdles you faced when developing this unique diagnostic system and how were these overcome?
  5. What impact do you think this test will have on the prevention of colorectal cancers?
  6. What do you think the future holds for metabolomics-based diagnostic tests?
To read the full interview, visit To see a video news clip, visit


15 Nov 2013

Global Genomics Group, Metabolon partner to discover novel targets for cardiovascular diseases

Global Genomics Group (G3) and Metabolon today announced that they have entered into a collaboration agreement to investigate biological networks and pathways in order to discover novel biomarkers and pharmaceutical targets for cardiovascular diseases. Under the terms of the agreement, Metabolon will analyze the biochemicals for the GLOBAL (Genetic LOci and Burden of Atherosclerotic Lesions) study. GLOBAL is the largest pan-omic study combining genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, lipidomics and lipoprotein proteomics with coronary computed tomographic (CT) angiography, an advanced imaging technology for phenotyping, which allows the precise disease classification in patients.

"Metabolon will employ its metabolomics platform and targeted assays to provide the most comprehensive assessment of the metabolism to complement the other 'omic' approaches used in this study," said Szilard Voros, M.D., chief executive officer and co-founder of G3. "We expect to analyze 22 trillion data points from the CT phenotyping and the complete pan-omic analysis to decode the complex biology underlying atherosclerotic disease to identify new drug targets and biomarkers. The study will enroll 7,500 patients in Phase I, may be extended to 10,000 patients in Phase II and has already enrolled over 3,000 patients and is well ahead of schedule."

25 Oct 2013

Cool tools: Metabolomic devices for companion diagnostics and personalized medicine

When former US President Bill Clinton announced the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2000, one commentator heralded it as “the biological equivalent of the moon landing,” and it was widely considered the gateway to locating—and presumably curing—our most complex medical conditions.

The Human Metabolomic Project, Canada’s quieter biological voyage launched in 2006 to catalog chemical compounds, and has made enormous gains. The project’s founding director, Dr. David Wishart, hopes to display its power with a prototype gadget he expects to see in your hand within a decade.

Because the gadget’s name is a mouthful—Metabolomic Device for Companion Diagnostics and Personalized Medicine—Dr. Wishart has nicknamed it the “Metabolomic Tricorder,” after the fictional Star Trek device that provided instant medical diagnosis and analysis with the wave of its wand.

Wearing a polo shirt, khakis and bent ball-cap, the University of Alberta researcher bears little resemblance to Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and his gadget doesn’t look much like a Tricorder. Instead of being waved outside the body, the portable device analyzes blood, urine and saliva samples for their metabolites—chemical compounds produced within the body. In addition to aiding diagnoses, it’s also predictive, opening the possibility of treating predispositions to illnesses such as colorectal cancer, diabetes and pre-eclampsia (the number one killer of expectant mothers).

Metabolites are molecular biomarkers that, in various patterns, tell a more accurate story of our health than DNA because they reveal environmental changes. Think of each metabolite as a musical note and each disease as a song. “If someone played only one note from a song, you wouldn’t recognize it, but if you can play 30 notes, the highs and the lows, in the right sequence, you can make out a song,” says Wishart. He thinks his technology can recognize up to 40 songs (or disease signatures) with the 40,000 compounds catalogued thus far. “It’s an emerging field, with little competition, so that means there’s a lot to discover.”

Much of the required technology, such as mass spectrometry, has existed for years. For example, a trace of blood from every newborn in Alberta goes to labs where mass spectrometers measure chemicals to identify genetic disorders or metabolite errors. Colon cancer screening uses a similar process. “Billions of these tests are done in North America every year, but they need these big instruments that cost $2 million and could fill up a boardroom,” says Dr. Wishart.

Dr. Wishart and his team aim to make these screenings cheaper, faster, and more efficient. Initially this will take the form of easy-to-use kits. But, eventually, Dr. Wishart hopes it will be done with a metabolomics device that fits in your pocket just like Dr. McCoy’s Tricorder.

The $8 million project is funded by AIHS, Pfizer, Genome Canada and, until recently, the National Institute for Nanotechnology, to which Dr. Wishart is cross-appointed. It began two years ago in two phases: mastering the technology and miniaturizing it. Dr. Wishart says the kits could be in research labs within a year, and in clinical labs within three. The tricorder devices could be in your G.P.’s office within five to eight years.

The project had a head start because Dr. Wishart himself is a pioneer in the field of metabolomics. “If you’re the only kid in the sandbox, you’ve got it to yourself,” observes Dr. Wishart, who in 1999 co-founded Chenomx (as in “chemical genomics”), a software company that measures metabolic data. At the time, the field was so cutting-edge that the word “metabolome” had only just been coined.

Today there are more kids in the sandbox, thanks in part to Dr. Wishart’s research, but Alberta remains a world leader. “Metabolomics could be a uniquely Albertan industry,” says Dr. Wishart. “A lot of the know-how literally exists right here in Edmonton.”


Please note:
If you know of any metabolomics news that we should feature in future issues of this newsletter, please email Ian Forsythe (

Metabolomics Events

Metabolomics Events

3-5 Feb 2014

PANIC: Practical Applications of NMR in Industry Conference
Venue: Hilton Charlotte University Place, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Mission Statement

Practical Applications of NMR in Industry Conference (PANIC) was initiated to provide an interactive forum for discussion of the latest developments in the use of NMR for practical applications to real problems faced by scientists in industry and research institutions. The emphasis is the practicality of the solution and “getting the job done”. The forum will provide a venue for presentation of practical applications, and workshops for discussion of real-world experiences relevant to current product development needs with an opportunity to share case studies to drive further development of NMR technology. Solution-state, solid-state, time-domain, and zero-field applications are all equally welcome at PANIC. The forum also will provide a venue for industrial, regulatory, government, and academic scientists to meet, network, and participate in exchanges of knowledge for mutual education in and advancement of the use of NMR techniques.

About This Conference

The PANIC meeting is intended to address topics that occur daily in industrial, government, and academic research laboratories whose primary task entails the application of NMR to a diverse set of analytical problems. Topics will include quantitation, molecular structure characterization, trace component and mixture analysis, and product support for a variety of materials that include small molecules, polymers, heterogeneous mixtures, natural products, biosimilars, polysaccharides, and proteins. The conference will provide in-depth discussions of the “nuts and bolts” of basic NMR experiments that accent the underlying best-practices developed to address these everyday problems. It also will explore the regulatory aspects of the applications of these experiments.

Greater insights will be provided into the less frequently explored techniques used in NMR such as quantitation, chemometrics, automation, relaxometry, and at/on line instrumentation. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about and discuss applications of NMR to polymers, petroleum, food, agriculture, and nutritional supplements that are rarely discussed at other NMR meetings. Ample opportunity will be given to Network with people who are experts in inventing NMR experiments to solve real world problems in a timely and efficient manner that is demanded by working in the venue of product delivery.

For more information, visit

17-21 Mar 2014

EMBO Practical Course on Metabolomics Bioinformatics for Life Scientists
Venue: The European Bioinformatics Institute, Hinxton, UK (See map: Google Maps)

Date: Monday, March 17, 2014 - Friday, March 21, 2014


Reza Salek, EMBL-EBI & Cambridge University, UK
Laura Emery, EMBL-EBI, UK

Registration Opens:
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Registration Deadline:
Friday, January 17, 2014 (12:00 midday GMT)
Acceptance Notification Date: Friday, January 31, 2014
Participation: Open application with selection

This course will provide an overview of key issues that affect metabolomics studies, bioinformatics tools, and procedures for the analysis of metabolomics data. It will be delivered using a mixture of lectures, computer-based practical sessions and interactive discussions. The course will provide a platform for discussion of the key questions and challenges in the field of metabolomics.

This course is aimed at PhD students and researchers with a minimum of one year’ s experience in the field of metabolomics who are seeking to improve their skills in metabolomics data analysis. Participants must have experience using R (including a basic understanding of the syntax and ability to manipulate objects) and the UNIX/LINUX operating system.

For more information, visit

24-26 Mar 2014

3rd International Conference and Exhibition on Metabolomics & Systems Biology
Venue: Hilton San Antonio Airport, USA

Theme: Multi-Omic Approaches to Envision the Role of Metabolites in Biological Systems

The annual Metabolomics conference mainly aims in bringing Metabolomics and Systems Biology researchers from around the world under a single roof, where they discuss the research, achievements and advancements in the field.

After the success of Metabolomics-2012 & Metabolomics-2013, OMICS Group is proud to announce the 3rd International Conference and Exhibition on Metabolomics & Systems Biology which is going to be held during March 24-26, 2014 at Hilton San Antonio Airport, USA.

Metabolomics-2014 meeting promises a program full of practical workshops and parallel sessions covering the broad range of biological and technological metabolomics topics, providing rich opportunities for networking and approach towards biomedical and biological scientific research.

Join us at Metabolomics-2014 as we gather together to share ideas, insights and advances  in the field of Metabolomics and Systems Biology.

Conference Highlights
  • Novel Approaches to Cancer Therapeutics
  • Analytical and Bio-Analytical Techniques in Metabolomics
  • Transcriptomics
  • Toxicology and Drug Metabolism
  • Current Trends and Innovations in Metabolomics
  • Computational Biology, Synthetic Biology and Systems Biology
  • Computational Genomics
  • Metabolomics Syndrome
  • Recent Approaches in Proteomics and Genomics
  • Glycomics and Lipidomics
To share your views and research, please click here to register for the Conference.

For more information, visit

30 Apr 2014

Analytical Tools for Cutting-edge Metabolomics - a joint meeting of the Analytical Division of the RSC and the international Metabolomics Society
Venue: Chemistry Centre, Science Suite, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, United Kingdom (Google Map Location)

Analytical chemistry has been one of the driving forces behind the development of metabolomics research over the past decade. The conference will bring together exceptional scientists for a program consisting of plenary and invited talks, posters, as well as an oral session devoted to early career researchers. It will be an excellent opportunity for analytical chemists to learn more about metabolomics and its application, and for metabolomics scientists to improve their knowledge of cutting-edge bioanalytical tools.

Date: 30 April 2014 09:30 - 16:45

Speaker Information:
Prof. Jeremy Nicholson, Imperial College, London UK - Plenary speaker
Dr Julian Griffin, MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge, UK
Prof. Roy Goodacre, University of Manchester, UK
Prof. Jean-Luc Wolfender, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Dr Steffen Neumann, Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, IPB Halle, Germany

A full list of speakers will be available soon.
For more details, please visit the event website.

23-26 Jun 2014

Metabolomics 2014: 10th Annual International Conference of the Metabolomics Society
The Official Joint Conference of the Metabolomics Society and Plant Metabolomics Platform
The Official Annual Meeting of the Metabolomics Society
Venue: Tsuruoka, Japan

Health, medical, pharmaceutical, nutritional, agricultural, microbial, bioenergy, environmental and plant sciences meet biochemical, analytical and computational technologies.

Early registration and abstract submission due March 31, 2014.

Stay abreast of the latest Metabolomics Society news via the Twitter feed on the front page of the website ( Also you can follow us on Twitter: Metabolomics Society @MetabolomicsSoc and Metabolomics journal @Metabolomics. And you can visit us on Facebook.
Please come back later for detailed information about Metabolomics 2014 by visiting

10-12 Sep 2014

Metabomeeting 2014
Venue: The Royal Institution, London, UK

SELECTBIO are delighted to announce that we are partnering with the Metabolic Profiling Forum (MPF) to host Metabomeeting 2014. The MPF will focus on the conference program while SELECTBIO will take care of logistics, promotion and exhibition/sponsorship activities.We are expecting up to 300 attendees offering a unique opportunity to network with key researchers who are making innovative discoveries within this field.

Call for Papers
If you would like to be considered for an oral presentation at this meeting, Submit an abstract for review now!
Oral Presentation Submission Deadline: 31 January 2014

Call for Posters
You can also present your research on a poster while attending the meeting. Submit an abstract for consideration now!
Poster Submission Deadline: 27 August 2014

Agenda Topics
Applied Metabolomics
Drug Discovery and Pharma
Human Disease
Human Health and Nutrition
Microbial, Invertebrate and Environmental Applications
Data Analysis and Integration with Systems Biology
Metabolite Identification

For more details, please visit the conference website.

28 Jun to 2 Jul 2015

Metabolomics 2015: 11th Annual International Conference of the Metabolomics Society
The Official Annual Meeting of the Metabolomics Society
Venue: San Francisco, USA

Details to follow.

Stay abreast of the latest Metabolomics Society news via the Twitter feed on the front page of the website ( Also you can follow us on Twitter: Metabolomics Society @MetabolomicsSoc and Metabolomics journal @Metabolomics. And you can visit us on Facebook.

Please come back later for detailed information about Metabolomics 2015 by visiting

Please note: If you know of any metabolomics lectures, meetings, workshops, or training sessions that we should feature in future issues of this newsletter, please email Ian Forsythe (

Metabolomics Jobs

Metabolomics Jobs

This is a resource for advertising positions in metabolomics. If you have a job you would like posted in this newsletter, please email Ian Forsythe ( Job postings will be carried for a maximum of 4 issues (8 weeks) unless the position is filled prior to that date.

Jobs Offered

Job Title Employer Location Posted Closes Source
Two PhD Student Opportunities at School of Botany The University of Melbourne Victoria, Australia
27-Nov-2013 31-Dec-2013
The University of Melbourne
Research Scientist - Bioinformatics Eli Lilly Indianapolis, USA
14-Nov-2013 22-Dec-2013
Reconstruction of the Genome-Scale Metabolic network of tomato INRA Bordeaux Center Bordeaux, France 08-Nov-2013 20-Dec-2013
Metabolomics Society
Post-doctoral fellow in Metabolomics Georgetown University Washington DC, USA 1-Nov-2013 31-Dec-2013
Metabolomics Society
Assistant Professor in Metabolomics Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center Little Rock, USA
University of Arkansas
Metabolomics Facility Staff Position – LCMS metabolomics  Georgetown University Washington DC, USA 23-Oct-2013
Metabolomics Society
An engineer-technician in metabolomics CRP - Gabriel Lippmann Belvaux, Luxembourg 23-Jul-2013 31-Dec-2013
Metabolomics Society

Jobs Wanted

This section is intended for very highly qualified individuals (e.g., lab managers, professors, directors, executives with extensive experience) who are seeking employment in metabolomics. We encourage these individuals to submit their position requests to Ian Forsythe ( Upon review, a limited number of job submissions will be selected for publication in the Jobs Wanted section.
  • Research or Lab Manager Position Sought (Candidate has extensive NMR metabolomics experience and knowledge including NMR instrumentation maintenance): [Candidate's CV]

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