By Julianna LeMieux, PhD
The focus at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) meeting has, historically, been the genome. This year, however, there is a lot of buzz around the proteome. Indeed, SomaLogic, a company working on proteomic tools for the past two decades, has chosen ASHG to announce the launch of a higher-plex proteomics platform, which provides 11,000 total protein measurements.
Why launch a proteomic tool at a human genetics meeting? Shane Bowen, PhD, chief research and development officer at SomaLogic tells GEN, “although ASHG is classically focused on genetics, proteomics is what will take us to the next level.” From his perspective, and having spent over a decade working at Illumina, “there has been a little bit of a gap between unlocking the power of the genome and what has transpired by reading all of the DNA.” The actionable results have not been delivered, he says. And, because therapeutics are developed to target proteins (proteins make up more than 90% of all known drug targets) more proteomic data, together with the genomic data, will allow for actionability.
SomaLogic’s aptamer-based SomaScan assay has been able to assess expression of 7k antigens in a single test. But the company, notes Adam Taich, CEO at SomaLogic, started working on increasing the number as soon as the 7k was released three years ago. He thinks that “high numbers are most critical.” They are seeing a huge confluence of genomics and proteomics, he adds, and customers who have “loads of genomic data and want to take it to the next level.”
The company asserts that their approach—using aptamers referred to as SOMAmers—is able to measure more proteins than a polyclonal antibody approach, with more specificity. In part, because the SOMAmers are made to target specific proteins. The new high-plex platform should aid researchers in their pursuit of the discovery of biomarkers and drug targets for translational medicine. Bowen explains that when so many different proteins are able to be investigated simultaneously, system level effects become evident.
How did the company make the jump from 7k to 11k? Taich explains this through their chemistry. The process through which SOMAmers are created is named “SELEX” (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment) described in the 1990 Science paper, “Systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment: RNA ligands to bacteriophage T4 DNA polymerase.” Using the SELEX process, the technology that the company was built on, the team at SomaLogic were able to expand the number of aptamers to 11k.
SomaLogic’s assay lab in Boulder, Colorado, is already running the SomaScan 11K Platform (the cost per sample is $950.00.) In addition, selected authorized sites are running the expanded platform, with new sites expected to come online in Q4. SomaLogic’s authorized sites around the world will begin offering the expanded platform in late 2023 and into 2024. In addition, an early access program to read SomaScan using Illumina sequencers will launch in early 2024. This co-exclusive partnership with Illumina was announced by SomaLogic in 2021.
“We aim ultimately to measure the entire proteome in order to identify the most specific biomarkers and to generate deeper insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying human disease or associated with therapeutic response. Measuring an additional 3,500 proteins on the 11K assay is anticipated to provide new biomarkers that we were not able to measure previously which could help to develop diagnostics with higher accuracy,” said Towia Libermann, PhD, director, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Genomics, Proteomics, Bioinformatics, and Systems Biology Center and DF/HCC Cancer Proteomics Core, which has run the SomaScan Assay since 2015.
If you are attending ASHG this week, SomaLogic will be hosting two presentations at the meeting. The first is on Friday, November 3, 4:30–5pm, where Jeff Harford will be presenting on the new SomaScan Assay. The second is a talk on combining proteomic and genomic data for improved predictive modeling of COPD, on Saturday, November 4, 12pm–1pm. The presenters will be Russell P. Bowler, MD, PhD, director of program in precision medicine, director of COPD Clinic, professor of medicine at Division of Pulmonary Medicine, department of medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, Colorado and David P. Astling, global support bioinformatics manager, global scientific engagement, SomaLogic.