The promise of proteomics

Future healthcare will depend on a new generation of therapies, with development driven by a much deeper knowledge of the biology underlying human health and disease, as well as a precision medicine mindset to get the right treatment to the right patients at the right time.

Proteomics, the comprehensive study of many thousands of proteins and their actions, is poised to be at the centre of this revolution.

A pivotal moment for biomedical science

Recent years have seen a clear trend towards a big-picture, “systems biology” approach to biological questions, with studies that look at the multiple molecular and cellular aspects involved in the disease or process under investigation. In the wake of the past few decades of intense genomics research, additional approaches are adding vital insights into the dynamic biology underlying human health and disease. These are exciting times for biomedical research and drug development, as we now begin to systematically analyze all the building blocks that make up human beings.

Why proteins?

Proteins represent the most important class of biomolecules in the context of understanding real-time human biology and should be at the centre of the development of new, more efficient therapies that can be tailored towards individuals. This is due to some important features of proteins in general:

  • they are the executors of most biological processes (e.g. enzymes, cytokines, transcription factors)
  • they are dynamic indicators of phenotype in health and disease
  • they provide the most actionable targets for therapeutic interventions (proteins are the targets of most current drugs)

The importance of proteins in the context of the “central dogma”

Comparison of DNA , RNA, and proteins

Figure: Comparison of DNA , RNA, and proteins in terms of real-time biological profile and actionability

Why now?

The vital role of proteins in understanding human biology has been recognized for many decades, but technological limitations severely restricted the comprehensive investigation of the huge number of proteins that could be important in different biological processes and diseases. Proteins are far more complex to investigate than DNA for example, and technologies to detect or measure proteins have suffered from a number of key issues:

  • lack of specificity of detection (particularly in multiplex assay formats)
  • poor sensitivity
  • narrow dynamic range
  • low throughput
  • large sample volume requirements

This has especially restricted large-scale discovery studies aimed at examining a broad range of proteins in large numbers of human samples. This situation is changing fast, however, and Olink’s PEA technology for protein biomarker discovery overcomes all of the technical limitations that have slowed the impact of proteomics. With Olink, scientists can now simultaneously measure thousands of human proteins using just a few µL of blood sample, with highly specific, thoroughly validated assays that cover a very wide dynamic range (fg/mL to µg/mL). Using the Olink Explore 3072 platform with NGS readout, for example, 4600 samples per week can be analyzed to measure ~3000 proteins using one NGS instrument, generating around 14 million protein data points.

The future

Olink’s vision is to accelerate proteomics together with the drug development and research communities to achieve the goal of precision medicine and individualized healthcare, based on a deep understanding of real-time human biology.

Collaboration is key

Our game-changing technology is a significant step in realizing that goal, but it is only by working closely with the scientific community that our vision can be driven forwards. Collaboration and sharing are at the heart of scientific progress, and we are delighted to see the creation of customer-driven consortia that are dedicated to these principles across a growing range of  therapeutic areas.  International consortia such as SCALLOP, CORAL, and COLLIBRI are sharing and combining their Olink-generated protein data from multiple cohorts, to greatly increase the statistical power of their studies and rapidly gain key insights to accelerate progress. Olink applauds and supports these initiatives and we see this collaborative approach as a key and growing factor in helping proteomics deliver on its objectives.

From basic biology to novel therapeutics

We also see the rapidly growing importance of protein biomarker programs right across the drug discovery and development process and will continue to work closely with the industry to maximize the impact of proteomics in delivering new and better therapies.

Olink will increasingly stand at the hub connecting basic and clinical research with drug development, continually developing new protein biomarker solutions that can accelerate the implementation of new biological insights into better outcomes for tomorrow’s patients.

Realizing the vision

Olink is committed to help achieve our vision of  a new era of precision medicine based on a proteomics-driven, deep understanding of human biology:

  • Through an ever-improving portfolio of world class proteomic solutions more accessible to a wider audience
  • By supporting and facilitating open collaboration and data sharing among the research community and pharmaceutical industry
  • By providing cutting-edge tools for biostatistical analysis and bioinformatics to help transform increasingly large and complex datasets into actionable insights and biological understanding

Hear what Professor Matthias Uhlén (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm) has to say about the promise of proteomics and the role of Olink technology in this exciting future for biological science and precision medicine in the video below!