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Proteomics Lends a Hand in the Fight Against COVID-19

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Studying the proteome can provide unprecedented insight into the physiological state of a cell, tissue or organism. SomaLogic's SomaScan® Assay measures approximately 5000 proteins simultaneously in a small amount of biological material. Analysis of proteins at such a large scale offers potential in the study of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus

Technology Networks 
spoke with Stephen Williams, Chief Medical Officer at SomaLogic, to learn about how proteomics can contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and the availability of the SomaScan Assay at this critical time.

Molly Campbell (MC): For our readers that may be unfamiliar, please can you tell us about the 
SomaScan® Assay?

Stephen Williams (SW):
 The SomaScan Assay measures the levels of approximately 5000 human proteins simultaneously, over a wide concentration range in a small sample of blood. Unlike genes which remain largely the same throughout an individual’s lifetime, the proteins in the body are constantly changing in response to both internal and external factors, such as pathogens, diet, chronic conditions and medications. Scanning proteins at scale provides information about both current health status and near-term risk of disease.

MC: How can the technology be leveraged in understanding how SARS-CoV-2 infection impacts the human body?

Proteins are like the body’s internet – they transmit information across organs and biological systems. The response of the human host to any infection involves proteins in the innate and adaptive immune systems; downstream inflammation upregulates proteins such as cytokines, and damaged cells and organs leak proteins into the blood. Because of this, scanning thousands of blood-based proteins one at a time can reveal which systems are dominant at what phase in the natural history (this information can help with drug targets).

Also, aside from the infection itself, proteins relate to underlying health conditions that have been shown to impact the consequences of infection – if the underlying “health reserve” is poor, then even a moderately serious infection might overwhelm it.

This leads to several different use cases for proteomics:

  • Understanding the natural history of the host response to infection leads to matching of existing drugs to the right phase of the condition

  • Understanding what proteins relate to severity of the infection

  • Predicting early in the presentation of infection who is going to be on a serious trajectory and who is going to be able to go home – enables earlier treatment and focusing limited resources on those who need it most

  • Predicting in uninfected people who would have serious consequences of being infected (a combination of underlying health assessments and innate immunity) – these people should be vaccinated first and social distance the most

MC: Can you tell us more about the availability of the SomaScan® Assay in this critical time?

We are offering the SomaScan Assay to COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 researchers and drug developers at costOur goal is to assay every eligible clinical sample and share the resulting data as rapidly and broadly as possible. We have dedicated a lab specifically for COVID-19 research and can expand that capacity as needed.

MC: Are SomaLogic able to expand on any of the research projects that are utilizing the technology currently in the fight against COVID-19?

 In general terms:

  • There are projects where blood samples are taken in mild/moderate/severe stages of the disease, some of them longitudinally in the same participants

  • There are projects in uninfected health workers (some of whom will become infected)

  • There are projects in large biobanks where samples have already been collected for other reasons in large numbers of people, and some of those people will become infected

Stephen Williams, CMO Soma Logic, was speaking with Molly Campbell, Science Writer, Technology Networks.