Heart to heart – Faiez Zannad in his own words

A story from the Olink user community.

Professor Faiez Zannad, one of the world’s foremost researchers in the area of heart failure, talks about his work, the importance of protein biomarkers in his field, and about his experiences of working with Olink over a number of years.


Faiez Zannad is Professor of Therapeutics and Cardiology at INSERM. He is at the Head of the Division of Heart Failure, Hypertension and Preventive Cardiology for the department of Cardiovascular Disease of the Academic Hospital (CHU) in Nancy and the Director of the Clinical Investigation Centre (Inserm-CHU) of Nancy since 1995. He entered the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) in 1996 and is past Chairman of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Working group on Pharmacology and Drug Therapy and past-President of the French Society of Hypertension. He is the Principal investigator and Member of Steering committees of major large-scale trials in human cardiology (RALES, VALIANT, CIBIS, CAPRICORN, EPHESUS, EMPHASIS-HF). He has served as Co-Editor-in-Chief for Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology, the official journal of the European Pharmacology Societies Federation (EUPHAR). He chairs and organises annual international meetings on CardioVascular Clinical Trials (CVCT) and on Biomarkers in Heart Failure.

Could you briefly describe the focus of your research, and how you came to be involved in this particular area?

“My area of interest is heart failure (HF) and clinical trials. Unfortunately, many HF trials are neutral or negative and, in my experience, the main reason appears to be that therapeutic responses are heterogenous and inconsistent among patients. Responders can be diluted among non-responders and the signal can be lost within this noise – HF is a heterogenous syndrome and we may be not enrolling the right patients into the trials. Many HF trials probably failed because we were using mechanistically targeted therapies, but not enrolling mechanistically selected patients! So, I am interested in selecting patients to fit the therapy (i.e. “precision medicine“) based on descriptors of the underlying biological mechanisms.”

What do you see as the value of protein biomarkers in the field of heart failure?

Professor Zannad addresses this question in a video recorded at the Protein Biomarker Symposium at the Nobel Forum, Stockholm in 2018.

How would you describe your experience of working with Olink over the past few years?

“When we started to get interested in biomarkers and “omics” in general, we had biobanks with small sample volumes and scarce, exhaustible samples and resources from historical existing cohorts and trial materials. The multiplex technology offered by Olink was the adequate response to meet our need. With very small sample volumes, very rapid turnaround for bioassay time and relatively reasonable cost, Olink offers a good compromise around these aspects.

Multiplex analyses of mechanistically clustered biomarkers are an excellent compromise between unbiased screening of very large number of proteins (which is relatively costly) and handpicked hypothesis-driven lower-plexes studies exploring small numbers of “usual suspect” individual biomarkers, which is time consuming and costly. We were pleased to build a genuine partnership with Olink, much beyond and more efficient than a consumer – provider relationship. Olink freely shared their continuous progress in offering upgrades to larger variety of clusters/panels, progress in data science, help with data interpretation, customization of panels etc. Although we enjoyed negotiated pricing and in-kind assistance, the cost of multiplex proteomics is a still a challenge for academic institutions!

We have had multiple meetings at the Uppsala HQ and Olink scientists attend our consortia and scientific meetings. They also introduced us to new scientific partners and we got them to access our large academic and industry networks. The work with Olink people is very pleasant and effective. True collaboration, constant dialogue and remarkable availability.

Some technical challenges remain around Olink data being presented in normalized protein expression units (relative quantification), which complicates the comparison to studies using other technologies, among other things. We are collaborating on further developing these aspects of the technology, however, and collectively, we look forward to advancing the fascinating field of proteomics research. In all of this, it is very reassuring that our voice is heard not only as customers – Olink is behaving not only as a provider, but also as a true scientific partner.”

Selected publications from Professor Zannad reporting Olink data

Ferreira JP, Duarte K, Woehrle H, Cowie M, Angermann C, d’Ortho M-P, Erdmann E, Levy P, Simonds A, Somers V, Teschler H, Wegscheider K, Bresso E, Dominique‑Devignes M, Rossignol P, Koenig W and Zannad F. Bioprofiles and mechanistic pathways associated with Cheyne-Stokes respiration: insights from the SERVE-HF trial. (2019) Clinical Research in Cardiology, DOI: 10.1007/s00392-019-01578-9
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Ferreira, JP, Metra M, Anker S, Dickstein K, Lang C, Ng L, Samani N, Cleland J, van Veldhuisen D, Voors A and Zannad F. Clinical correlates and outcome associated with changes in 6‐minute walking distance in patients with heart failure: findings from the BIOSTAT‐CHF study. (2019) Eur. J. Heart Failure, doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehy815
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Ouwerkerk W, Zwinderman A, Ng L, Demissei B, Hillege H, Zannad F, van Veldhuisen D, Samani N, Ponikowski P, Metra M, ter Maaten J, Lang C van der Harst P, Filippatos G, Dickstein K, Cleland J, Anker S and Voors A. Biomarker-Guided Versus Guideline-Based Treatment of Patients With Heart Failure : Results From BIOSTAT-CHF. (2018) Journal of the American College of Cardiology, doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.041
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Santema B, Kloosterman M, Van Gelder I, Mordi I, Lang C, Lam C, Anker S, Cleland J, Dickstein K, Filippatos G, Van der Harst P, Hillege H, Ter Maaten J, Metra M, Ng L, Ponikowski P, Samani N, Van Veldhuisen D, Zwinderman A, Zannad F, Damman K, Van der Meer P, Rienstra M and Voors A. Comparing biomarker profiles of patients with heart failure: atrial fibrillation vs. sinus rhythm and reduced vs. preserved ejection fraction. (2018) European Heart Journal, doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehy421
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Other links

See a comprehensive list of Professor Zannad’s many publications on PubMed – here

The HOMAGE ‘bench to bedside’ project aims to identify and validate specific biomarkers of heart failure in order to prevent the development of the disease affecting elderly population – visit the HOMAGE website.

FIBRO-TARGETS aims to shed light on the main mechanisms involved in myocardial interstitial fibrosis, which is characterized by the rigidity of heart tissue; it alters the contraction and relaxation functions of the heart, ultimately leading to heart failure – visit the FIBRO-TARGETS website