Reynolds appointed CEO of SomaLogic

Reynolds appointed CEO of SomaLogic

SomaLogic announces the appointment of long-time Board member as Chief Executive Officer

Former CEO Byron Hewett steps down after successfully building the foundation for SomaLogic’s future growth

Boulder CO – April 5, 2017 – SomaLogic announced today that Board of Directors member Alister W. (Al) Reynolds has agreed to become the next company Chief Executive Officer.  He is replacing Byron Hewett, who elected to step down from the role following several years of successfully leading the company through its initial growth into a successful commercial entity.

Alister (Al) Reynolds

Alister (Al) Reynolds (Photo by Glenn J. Asakawa)

The announcement was made by SomaLogic Founder and Board Chairman Larry Gold, who praised both Hewett’s leadership over the past several years, as well as the uniquely relevant experience that Reynolds now brings to the role. “As we now enter a new phase in our development we are absolutely delighted that Al, with his deep knowledge of SomaLogic and his broad experience in healthcare, is available and willing to step into top-level leadership at this critical time,” said Gold.

Reynolds, who has served on the SomaLogic Board since 2003, said that he is both excited about taking on this new role and eager to get started. “I don’t think the potential impact of SomaLogic on the quality of life of so many people around the world can be overstated,” said Reynolds. “I have been fortunate to be a contributor to the company’s progress to date, and I look forward to serving this ground-breaking company in new ways going forward.”

In addition to his Board position at SomaLogic, Reynolds currently serves on the Board of Prodigo Solutions Inc. Previously, he served in a variety of senior executive positions for Quest Diagnostics Inc. and its predecessor company Corning Inc. for over 20 years, culminating in responsibility for the nationwide operations of Quest Diagnostics. For the past 14 years Reynolds has served on the Boards and been a private investor in several successful early-phase companies, primarily in healthcare. Reynolds holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Colgate University and an MBA in finance from Cornell University.

“I am very proud of what the SomaLogic team has accomplished these past several years,” said Hewett, “particularly the initiation and growth of an outstanding commercial program that matches the unequalled research program already here when I arrived, and the intensive strategic planning we have done to successfully build the foundation for the company’s future growth.” Hewett cites the strategic plan as the main reason for his decision: “The different kind of leadership expertise it requires to fully achieve this strategy led me to the decision that now is the right time to hand off the baton to a new CEO.”

Hewett will stay on as an advisor to SomaLogic, and will work with the Board and Reynolds through the transition and beyond. “Byron has been a valued colleague and leader in helping SomaLogic develop a needed commercial focus,” said Gold. “We are grateful to Byron not only for his contributions to date, but also for his willingness to help and support SomaLogic in the future.”

Contact:
Fintan R. Steele, Ph.D.
Chief Communications Officer
T: 720-214-3080
C: 617-816-9834
fsteele@somalogic.com

About SomaLogic
SomaLogic is committed to helping people worldwide receive timely, accurate, trustworthy and actionable information that helps them manage their personal health and wellness. To realize this vision, we are creating and delivering the ”SOMAscan Platform,” a clinically useful and affordable health information system based on comprehensive and personalized protein measurement, delivered broadly through a global ecosystem of partners and users.

 

Send in the Modifications

War movies are full of it. Bullets whizzing past the infantry. Supplies dwindling to the last scrap of shoe leather. The enemy advancing ever closer. Morale falling faster than the apple hitting Sir Isaac Newton’s head. Suddenly, a burst of brilliant light emerges from beyond the hills heralding the arrival of reinforcements. The battered infantry is reinvigorated to make that final push on the enemy’s line and claims victory.

Outside of such Hollywood moments, the arrival of reinforcements actually happens routinely and even in the most unlikely of places. For example, a test tube. Though an unlikely location, scientists at SomaLogic saw the benefits upon the arrival of reinforcements.

At the core of SomaLogic’s technology are SOMAmer® reagents. These reagents are “evolved” to bind a protein and are composed of varying amounts of four nucleic acid bases, one of which is modified with “protein-like” sidechains. These modified bases in turn enable the SOMAmer to tightly bind its target protein, even in a complicated mix of many different proteins.

This effect raises an interesting question: If modifying one of the four bases used to create SOMAmers yields such great protein binders, what happens when reinforcements are added (e.g., what if two of the four bases are modified)? To answer this question, SomaLogic scientists modified a second base, and found that the number of very strong binding SOMAmers significantly increased (as did the number of different binding sites on the target protein) (Gawande et al., 2017). They also found that they could make shorter SOMAmers with no apparent loss of binding capabilities.

These reinforcing modifications and enhanced traits expand the number of proteins that can be targeted by SOMAmers (and, by extension, the reach of the SOMAscan assay into the proteome). They also increase the already broad range of uses for SOMAmer reagents. For example, the use of SOMAmers with two modifications makes it easier to find pairs for sandwich assays (e.g., an assay in which one SOMAmer captures the protein and second SOMAmer detects the captured protein, making a “sandwich” around the protein). With the small size and great stability, the two modifications may make SOMAmers worthy therapeutic candidates or great tools for other applications, such as drug delivery. Clearly, the arrival of these modification reinforcements only strengthens the power of the SOMAmer technology.

Reference

Gawande, B. N., Rohloff, J. C., Carter, J. D., von Carlowitz, I., Zhang, C., Schneider, D. J., & Janjic, N. (2017). Selection of DNA aptamers with two modified bases. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. doi:10.1073/pnas.1615475114



Lions and Tigers and Diseases…Oh My!

A newborn fawn laying in a flowering meadow takes its first wobbly steps and soon gleefully frolics. Unbeknownst to the little fawn, a mountain lion intently watches the little morsel. Fortunately, the fawn’s mother knows the world is full of danger and guides her little one to safety.

Although we do not have to worry about being a mountain lion’s next meal (although it occasionally happens), the world still contains many dangers. If we do not want to share the would-be fate of the little fawn, we need our very own sentinels. This could not be truer when it comes to infectious diseases. Too recently, we observed how a small outbreak of a disease, such as Zika or Ebola, can quickly become an epidemic. If these are caught early, then fewer people suffer or lose their lives.

How can we enlist sentinels to stand watch? One way involves the creation of tests that can determine if a person is at risk of developing a serious illness, such as tuberculosis. A person possessing a latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI—i.e., with no obvious symptoms) could eventually develop an active tuberculosis infection that easily spreads. If these individuals can be identified and treated early, then the chance of transmission drops. The tuberculosis tests currently on the market are plagued by false positive results. A highly accurate test is crucial for preventing the global spread of this disease that affects 2 billion people.

Developing an improved assay to identify who is at risk of developing an active tuberculosis infection has been the work of a team of Colorado researchers (De Groote et al., 2017). The group focused on identifying biomarkers indicative of LTBI. The scientists used the SOMAscan® assay to identify biomarker candidates from people who either tested positive (confirmed LTBI) or negative (no LTBI) in three commercially available tuberculosis tests. The group identified several strong protein biomarker candidates and confirmed interferon gamma (IFN-g), a biomarker identified in previous studies. Using IFN-g alone, they could not definitively separate healthy people from those with LTBI (still had false positives). By including another biomarker (interleukin-2) in the search, they could accurately distinguish the LTBI individuals.

Although this work is preliminary, it is a significant step forward in the development of a reliable LTBI test. Thanks in part to the stability of SOMAmer® reagents, we can envision a test that could be readily deployed in remote villages to identify people with latent infections and get them the treatment they need. With this kind of sentinel, tuberculosis infections may become globally eradicated. Also, it will be one less mountain lion-esque danger that we must be concerned about as we frolic through the meadows of life.

Resources

De Groote, M. A., Higgins, M., Hraha, T., Wall, K., Wilson, M. L., Sterling, D. G., . . . Belknap, R. (2017). Highly Multiplexed Proteomic Analysis of Quantiferon Supernatants To Identify Biomarkers of Latent Tuberculosis Infection. J Clin Microbiol, 55(2), 391-402. doi:10.1128/JCM.01646-16



Modified DNA aptamers: Two is better than one

Modified DNA aptamers: Two is better than one

In a study published online on March 6, 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), SomaLogic scientists report on the generation and characterization of a new class of SOMAmer that contains two different types of modified nucleotides. Current SOMAmer® reagents contain deoxyuridine (dU) bases with protein-like modifications at the 5-position, which increases the chemical diversity of SOMAmer libraries and expands the number and type of protein targets that can be bound. Now, for the first time, researchers have created new SOMAmer libraries that contain an additional base: a 5-position modified deoxycytosine (dC).

The researchers synthesized a total of 18 different SOMAmer libraries that contained zero, one or both types of modified bases. To test the libraries, they selected new SOMAmers against the known human therapeutic target protein, proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9), a critical protein in heart health. They found that the SOMAmers with the best binding to PCSK9 contained both types of modified bases. Similar results were observed with another target protein, prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), a predictor for progression and prognosis of prostate cancer.

SomaLogic researchers are now incorporating these new SOMAmer reagents in ongoing studies across a wide range of biomedical science, from basic research to therapeutic applications.

Reference: Gawande et al. (2017) Selection of DNA aptamers with two modified bases Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published ahead of print March 6, 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1615475114

 

Hot Proteins: The Prion Collective

Resistance is futile. These words have become the catch phrase of the Borg, an iconic alien race determined to assimilate all life into their collective. With no regard or any compassion, the aliens do what they want to achieve their objective. Being able to quickly adapt, defeating these foes becomes a herculean challenge for the protagonists of Star Trek. In these fictional scenarios, the writers can easily add a happy ending and give the heroes the means for conquering the infamous aliens until they meet again.

Life can imitate art. Very much like the aliens uttering the ominous resistance quote, a biological agent spreads throughout the environment and assimilates others into its collective. This biological agent is called a prion. Originating from the misfolding of the prion protein (PrPC) found in all mammals, prions can aggregate. If the aggregate encounters a normal PrPC, the normal protein misfolds and becomes assimilated into the aggregate. As the aggregate grows, havoc spreads through the infected mammal’s central nervous system until the unfortunate animals dies (Huang, Chen, & Zhang, 2015). The prime directive of the prion collective does not end with the animal’s death.

Prions are remarkably stable and can exist in the environment for several years. If they are released via the decomposition of an infected animal or waste (urine and feces), the prions can reside on the vegetation or be taken into the actual plant tissue as the plant grows in prion-contaminated soil. When another animal comes along and eats the infected plant material, the unsuspecting victim becomes infected with the prion collective (Pritzkow et al., 2015).

Can prions from one species infect a different species? The answer is yes. Should we start panicking? Yes and no. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), is well known to have crossed the species barrier to infect humans (Murdoch & Murdoch, 2015). Another transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, chronic wasting disease (CWD), is spreading throughout the herds of deer and other cervids in North America. In fact, one in four deer in Boulder, CO has CWD (Miller et al., 2008). Research indicates that while CWD can affect primates, it has been unable to assimilate human PrPC into the prion collective (Kurt & Sigurdson, 2016). Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information for hunters on how to handle deer or elk carcasses to minimize exposure to the potentially infectious agent (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).

Like the alien race, CWD prions may one day adapt and become infectious in humans. If prions can be passed through animal feces and urine, will the food we consume (grown in areas of the country where a significant percentage of the deer are infected) continue to be safe?

A diagnostic test does exist for those concerned that they may have been infected (Groveman et al., 2017). The outlook is grim if the results are positive. It will be sometime before science can come up with a way to defeat this foe.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Chronic Wasting Disease Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/prions/cwd/prevention.html

Groveman, B. R., Orru, C. D., Hughson, A. G., Bongianni, M., Fiorini, M., Imperiale, D., . . . Caughey, B. (2017). Extended and direct evaluation of RT-QuIC assays for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease diagnosis. Ann Clin Transl Neurol, 4(2), 139-144. doi:10.1002/acn3.378

Huang, W. J., Chen, W. W., & Zhang, X. (2015). Prions mediated neurodegenerative disorders. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 19(21), 4028-4034.

Kurt, T. D., & Sigurdson, C. J. (2016). Cross-species transmission of CWD prions. Prion, 10(1), 83-91. doi:10.1080/19336896.2015.1118603

Miller, M. W., Swanson, H. M., Wolfe, L. L., Quartarone, F. G., Huwer, S. L., Southwick, C. H., & Lukacs, P. M. (2008). Lions and prions and deer demise. PLoS One, 3(12), e4019. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004019

Murdoch, B. M., & Murdoch, G. K. (2015). Genetics of Prion Disease in Cattle. Bioinform Biol Insights, 9(Suppl 4), 1-10. doi:10.4137/BBI.S29678

Pritzkow, S., Morales, R., Moda, F., Khan, U., Telling, G. C., Hoover, E., & Soto, C. (2015). Grass plants bind, retain, uptake, and transport infectious prions. Cell Rep, 11(8), 1168-1175. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2015.04.036