Impact of Biomarkers and MS
Depending on how a company integrates biomarkers into its process, they could result in a number of benefits, including drugs being used for indications not originally envisioned, potentially bringing significant revenues with minimal marginal investment. Over time, the approval and acceptance of large numbers of standard biomarkers by physicians would completely change the healthcare system, based upon improved diagnostics, prognostics, theranostics, and other increasingly personalized medicine.
As the technologies advance and databases and knowledge about biomarkers grow, the benefits will likely converge and compound. This could create a “fax effect” where the value of biomarkers, as a result of data being mined, shared, and compared, would increase.
Although validated protein biomarkers often ultimately result in diagnostic tests using ELISA or immunohistochemistry in the clinic, some people have described MS as the future of molecular medicine. MS has the necessary abilities to rapidly identify biochemicals, such as DNA, proteins, or carbohydrates. Thus, it is currently being used as the workhorse for discovering and validating biomarkers in clinical research, whether for drug development or diagnostic applications. MS technology also far outperforms any alternative for this purpose due to its particular ability to identify large numbers of components in complex mixtures.
In the last decade, protein science has been revolutionized by the ever-increasing abilities of MS, along with bioinformatics and databases, which have allowed more rapid and larger-scale experiments. These increased capibilites have drawn large numbers of life science researchers to procure MS instruments or use available core lab facilities for proteomics experiments.
Proteins have also become the focus in much of biomarker research for largely the same reason that proteomics has become widespread in life science research—the proteins are usually actively involved in the actual mechanisms of the cell, while DNA is further removed and merely provides a form of blueprint for the proteins. They differ from DNA and other analytes in the sense that all disease states can probably be defined using proteins. They can also assist in the prediction of drug response or dosage in humans.
This has been somewhat of a shift from previous generations of biologists focusing mainly on DNA sequence and their mutations and largely ignoring splicing, post-translational modifications, copy number variation, methylation, and other widespread phenomena.