Larry Gold, the founder and chairman of the board of SomaLogic, has been awarded the 8th International Steven Hoogendijk Prize by the Dutch Batavian Society of Experimental Philosophy (Bataafsch Genootschap der Proefondervindelijke Wijsbegeerte). Bataafsch Genootschap is one of the oldest scientific societies in the Netherlands, founded in 1769 by Steven Hoogendijk, a clockmaker in Rotterdam. The biennial Hoogendijk prize honors global breakthroughs at the cutting edge of medicine and technology. Previous recipients include George Church, Alfred Cuschieri, Stefan Vilsmeier and Richard Durbin.
Dr. Gold is a professor in the department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder and a bioscience entrepreneur. His research has led to numerous commercially successful patents, and he has founded two other biotechnology companies prior to SomaLogic.
The Hoogendijk prize, which consists of 10,000 euros and a silver medal, will be presented to Dr. Gold in a ceremony on September 19th in Rotterdam.
An article published online today in Nature Methods describes the use of SOMAmer® reagents to specifically label and precisely visualize single molecules within single cells. This new use for SOMAmer reagents opens the door to viewing how biological structures are organized on a molecular scale and how they function in living tissue in real time.
The fundamental laws of physics prevent traditional light microscopy from resolving objects that are smaller than about 200 nm, the so-called “diffraction limit.” But biology happens on a much, much smaller scale: a protein such as hemoglobin is 5.5 nm wide and a DNA double helix is only 2 nm wide. The advent of “super-resolution microscopy” has allowed scientists to breach the diffraction limit and see inside cells at an unprecedented level of detail. To help orient the view, individual proteins within individual cells are commonly labeled with antibodies, which are then detected by fluorescent probes. However, antibodies are usually three or four times larger than their target proteins, so the position of the antibody rather than the protein of interest is what’s seen in the image.
In the Nature Methods paper, a team of scientists from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), and SomaLogic substituted SOMAmers for antibodies as labeling reagents for the super-resolution microscopy technique known as “DNA Points Accumulation in Nanoscale Topography” (DNA-PAINT). SOMAmers — modified aptamers that bind tightly and specifically to protein targets — are approximately a tenth of the size of antibodies. Using SOMAmers, the investigators were able to resolve the membrane receptor protein EGFR to less than 8 nm, an approximate two-fold improvement over labeling using conventional antibodies. They also demonstrated that SOMAmers could provide quantitative information on the number of target proteins present, simultaneously label multiple cellular proteins, image proteins inside cells, and image proteins on living cells.
According to the investigators, “SOMAmers should make it possible to eventually image tens to hundreds of cellular targets in single cells with single-molecule spatial resolution in a quantitative fashion and furthermore allow for live labeling and imaging of membrane-bound proteins.”
Reference: Strauss, S et al. (2018) “Modified aptamers enable quantitative sub-10-nm cellular DNA-PAINT imaging” Nature Methods, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41592-018-0105-0
See also a news story from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
Addressing one of the largest remaining knowledge gaps in biomedical science, researchers from Novartis, SomaLogic, and the Icelandic Heart Association have found a way to tie genetic variations to complex disorders, such as heart disease and diabetes. Their findings, published online today in the journal Science, demonstrate that communication between networks of proteins can explain the connections between genes and diseases.
The researchers began with an established Icelandic study of aging (AGES-Reykjavik), which initially focused on understanding the role of genetic variations in late-onset, age-related diseases. Participants in AGES-Reykjavik were over 65 and included both healthy adults and those diagnosed with various conditions of old age. However, linking individual gene variants to disease proved almost impossible since common chronic conditions of aging are not caused by defects in a single gene.
In the Science study, the research teams used a custom version of SomaLogic’s proprietary SOMAscan® technology to measure the levels of over 4,000 different human proteins in 5,457 blood samples from individuals in the AGES-Reykjavik study. Using advanced computational tools to mine approximately 27 million protein measurements, the researchers found that the examined proteins clustered into 27 different groups or “networks” composed of 20 to 921 proteins.
Each network contained a few central players that were highly connected, and these “hub proteins” seemed to organize interactions and information flow within the network. When investigators incorporated genetic data on AGES participants, they found that the hub proteins were often regulated by genetic variations that had been previously linked to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, but for which the biological underpinnings were unknown.
In short, these findings show how the thousands of proteins detectable in the blood can facilitate communication between the various cells, tissues and organs of the body. Using the SOMAscan assay to “listen into” these communication networks may reveal new ways to detect, predict, monitor and even treat common age-related disorders.
Reference: V. Emilsson et al., Science 10.1126/science.aaq1327 (2018).
See also a news story on the Novartis website and a news story in TheScientist magazine.
Combining the world-leading proteomic and artificial intelligence/machine learning technologies to produce novel, actionable health insights across many diseases, conditions and markets
SomaLogic and GNS Healthcare announced today that SomaLogic has obtained a license to apply GNS Healthcare’s proprietary REFS™ (Reverse Engineering & Forward Simulation) causal machine learning technology to SomaLogic’s proprietary SOMAscan®-derived protein data sets. The goal of this agreement is to leverage REFS to rapidly accelerate the translation of SomaLogic’s massive protein data into meaningful and actionable information for individual and population health management.
Living organisms function through complicated interconnected biological networks that respond dynamically to factors such as diet, environment, medication, infection and disease. SomaLogic’s SOMAscan platform taps into these networks by repeatedly measuring the changing levels of thousands of proteins circulating through the body over time. These large data sets require increasingly powerful machine learning-based tools like GNS Healthcare’s unique REFS platform, which builds computational models of the biological networks from the raw data to reveal new understandings of disease and even potential interventions.
“Our ability to measure 5,000 proteins in each of hundreds of thousands of samples requires that we be able to analyze all those data in a way that will ultimately result in making a difference for individuals and their health providers,” said Alister Reynolds, CEO of SomaLogic. “We believe that GNS Healthcare’s powerful REFS technology has the potential to become a critical tool for extracting those meaningful health insights.”
“Our REFS platform has proven itself repeatedly with genomic, transcriptomic, metabolite, clinical, labs, EMR, claims, and other data types, and we are excited to see how well it performs on real-time biological measurements like proteins,” said Colin Hill, CEO and cofounder of GNS Healthcare. “SOMAscan-derived protein data are perfectly suited to the REFS workflow, and we look forward to our platform fully proving its value again in this setting.”
Further specifics about the agreement were not disclosed.
GNS Healthcare Contact
Laura S. Mizoue, Ph.D.
About GNS Healthcare
GNS Healthcare solves healthcare’s matching problem for leading health plans, biopharma companies, and health systems. We transform massive and diverse data streams to precisely match therapeutics, procedures, and care management interventions to individuals, improving health outcomes and saving billions of dollars. Our causal learning and simulation platform, REFS, accelerates the discovery of what works for whom and why. Learn more at www.gnshealthcare.com.
SomaLogic delivers meaningful and actionable health-management insights that empower individuals worldwide to continuously optimize their personal health and wellness throughout their lives. These essential insights, which are provided through a global network of partners and users, are derived from precise, proprietary, and personalized measurement of critical changes in an individual’s proteins over time. For more information, visit www.somalogic.wpengine.com.
Measuring proteins reveals how genetic changes help give rise to complex traits and diseases
An article published today in the journal Nature brings us closer to understanding how differences in the genomes of individuals help contribute to common diseases and influence disease risk. Specifically, this study — by far the largest of its kind to date — revealed the effects of genetic variations on the levels of circulating blood proteins across thousands of individuals.
Proteins play essential roles throughout the body, and changes in their concentrations can reflect a person’s health status at any given time. Proteins are also the targets of most drugs, so the results of this study open the door to understanding individual responses to medical treatments, one of the goals of precision medicine.
Over the past decade, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified of DNA variants that are linked to complex traits and diseases but have not explained exactly why they are important. The vast majority of DNA differences flagged by GWAS lie in regions of the genome with no known function and have small effect sizes. This makes establishing causal relationships or determining disease risk extremely difficult, even for conditions with a strong hereditary component such as obesity or cancer.
In the largest study of its kind to date, an international team led by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Merck tested 10.6 million DNA variants against the levels of 2,994 plasma proteins — measured using the SOMAscan® assay — in 3,301 healthy individuals of European heritage. They identified 1,927 genetic variants that impact the levels of 1,478 plasma proteins, of which ~90% had not been previously reported. Many of the variants act in “trans” (i.e., they lie far from the gene whose activity is altered, typically on different chromosomes). Trans associations are particularly interesting because they can highlight biological connections that are otherwise difficult to predict.
The authors cross-referenced their findings with known disease-associated GWAS variants to identify proteins that might cause disease. Some disease-associated proteins are targets of existing drugs, which suggests possible therapeutics for new indications. Connecting protein perturbations to disease endpoints also allows identification of new drug targets and potential safety concerns for drugs under development. These results also suggest that monitoring protein levels over time may suffice for regular health management.
Reference: Sun, BB et al. (2018) “Genomic atlas of the human plasma proteome” Nature 558: 73-79
See also the University of Cambridge news release.
April 2, 2018 – Boulder, CO – SomaLogic announced today that Melody Harris has joined SomaLogic as the company’s Chief Legal Officer. Ms. Harris comes to SomaLogic from Qualcomm Life, a digital health subsidiary of Qualcomm, where she led the legal, global privacy, and Quality, Regulatory & Compliance groups as Vice President & Chief Counsel.
“I am delighted that Melody has chosen to take on this central role at SomaLogic at this critical time of company growth,” said Al Reynolds, Chief Executive Officer of SomaLogic. “She brings with
her a wealth of experience in healthcare technology and data-centric business models that we need to help us accelerate the delivery of SomaLogic’s breakthrough precision health insights into multiple markets around the world.”
SomaLogic was founded to transform healthcare by accurately measuring the changing state of an individual’s health over time, as revealed by changes in the proteins that make up the human body. Regularly monitoring thousands of proteins, unlike genome sequencing, can reveal not only real-time health status but also what interventions (e.g., diet, prescription and/or lifestyle changes) could maximize that status.
“SomaLogic is bringing together a unique technology and business plan to entirely change how people world-wide manage their personal health,” said Ms. Harris. “This rare opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives is exciting, and I am eager to join the SomaLogic team to help make that vision a reality.”
Ms. Harris joined Qualcomm Life with the acquisition of HealthyCircles, where she served as General Counsel. At HealthyCircles, Ms. Harris built the company’s legal and compliance functions and advised on early-stage product development related to data and privacy by design. Prior to HealthyCircles, Ms. Harris held a variety of senior leadership roles, including President & General Counsel of an international IP management firm, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of an international software development and consulting firm, and Senior IP counsel to U S WEST/Qwest. She received her J.D., cum laude, from the Harvard Law School and her B.A., cum laude, in political science from the University of Denver.
Laura S. Mizoue, Ph.D.
SomaLogic delivers health management insights in real-time that empower individuals to take action to improve their personal health and wellness. These essential insights, provided through a global network of partners and users, are derived from precise, proprietary, and personalized measurement of critical changes in an individual’s protein makeup throughout life. For more information, visit https://somalogic.wpengine.com/.