[PART TWO] Good as Gold
Chairman and founder of SomaLogic, Dr. Larry Gold, is on a mission to alter how — and how early — diseases are detected and diagnosed. He aims to do this by revolutionizing the field of “proteomics” — the study of the 20,000 proteins that make up the human body.
Currently, SomaLogic can measure about 5,000 of those proteins, with the rest on the way. As a result, the company is making strides in identifying protein “biomarkers” that aid in the early detection of some of the most devasting and deadly diseases of our time.
The Dreaded Disease Roll Call
Health conditions targeted by SomaLogic define the A-list of notorious diseases.
These include multiple cancers, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, infectious diseases like tuberculosis, and a growing number of so-called “rare” diseases, of which Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most recently described in a publication this past May.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
In late 2010, SomaLogic had a breakthrough on the biggest killer of all cancers.
Working with research collaborators, the company identified a panel of biomarker proteins that detect non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in its early, treatable stages. NSCLC is the form most lung cancers take, including lung cancers in never-smokers.
“We’re making tremendous progress on NSCLC, collaborating with many oncologists, and we care about it enormously,” says Gold, adding that early stage detection in cancer is key to transforming treatments and improving outcomes.
He says a commercially available test for NSCLC is still “most likely two to three years out,” but he is optimistic that soon very early diagnosis will save tens of thousands of lives.
Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases
One of SomaLogic’s first commercial products will likely be one that diagnoses cardiovascular disease early, before it results in a life-ending event, says Gold.
This would be good news for the 20 million people in the U.S. that are at high risk. SomaLogic’s largest proteomic study determined that protein changes can foretell a cardiovascular event and are highly predictive of a secondary event.
Worldwide, TB affects one in three people. The Gates Foundation has twice funded SomaLogic to study biomarkers that might detect when a carrier shifts from latent to active, in hopes of treating carriers early and preventing further disease spread. To date, SomaLogic studies show that an eight-marker protein model can predict latent-to-active transitions.
Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy
This tragic disease affects one in 3,600 young males, impairing the ability to walk by age 12 and resulting in death by age 25. No cure exists and there are few treatment options.
“Duchenne’s is one of maybe 10 diseases that are big enough for us to understand what’s going on, a disease in which one gene is disrupted, a gene for a protein called dystrophin,” says Gold. SomaLogic has identified 44 proteins that change significantly in DMD patients. Many of the proteins are from muscle deterioration that occurs well before symptoms appear, but many others point to potential new prognostic and diagnostic tools, as well as new ways to treat the disease.
The Ultimate Weapon – the SomaLogic “Wellness Chip”
For Larry Gold, the ultimate goal is the creation of a “Wellness Chip” to identify many different diseases before they establish a stronghold, so they can be treated as early – and effectively — as possible.
“In a single diagnostic test that measures thousands of proteins, we could monitor wellness by looking at your blood once a year and identifying if you need to see a doctor about a specific condition. The result would be highly personalized and precise health care for each person,” says Gold.
“That was the idea we had initially and now it looks like we really can do that. What could be simpler?”
To learn more about SomaLogic’s technology read PART ONE, Good as Gold: SomaLogic’s Quest.