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Feature Articles : May 1, 2014 ( )
Discovering More Telling Biomarkers
Whether it’s mining the metabolome, probing for epigenetic hot spots, or dissecting tumor phenotypes, researchers are discovering new ways to advance biomarker identification and validation using modern tools.
Although the search for biomarkers presents many challenges, researchers persist because biomarkers have enormous potential for bringing new drugs to market, enhancing molecular diagnostics, and tailoring therapeutics for improved patient stratification and outcome.
Epigenetic Immune Cell Markers
Characterizing immune cell populations is an important aspect of applications ranging from infectious diseases to autoimmune diseases to cancer. Traditional methods can be cumbersome and inaccurate, according to Ulrich Hoffmueller, Ph.D., chief business officer and founder, Epiontis.
Mining the Metabolome
The metabolome, the complete set of human metabolites, may be assessed for biomarkers to create metabolite profiles. Such profiles may provide unique chemical signatures reflecting environmental influences and individual predispositions to a host of diseases. Since 2003, Metanomics Health, a subsidiary of BASF, has utilized both targeted and nontargeted metabolic profiling for biomarker identification and validation.
“Biomarker discovery and validation requires a robust and highly reproducible metabolite profiling platform,” notes Dr. Bölke. “Aside from an untargeted (unbiased) metabolite profiling platform, access to targeted methods (such as lipidomics, energy metabolites, stress hormones, and eicosanoids) is also important.”
Pulmonary Disease Biomarkers
Diseases of the airways such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) result from a complex, subtle interplay of environmental and genetic susceptibility factors. To better understand the pathophysiological nuances of these diseases (and to improve the evaluation of new drugs), companies are focusing on biomarkers. One such company is Novartis, which is evaluating biomarkers through its research organization, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.
On average, only about 5 out of 10 patients receiving a given therapy benefit from it, while some may experience troubling side-effects. Identifying clinically meaningful patient subgroups to remedy this is a key element of the Roche Pharma Early Research and Development (pRED) oncology programs. Miro Venturi, Ph.D., site head for biomarkers and experimental medicine, oncology, says, “We are pursuing tailored biomarker strategies to identify mechanistic and pharmacodynamic as well as selection or stratification markers to improve patient benefit.”
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