Blood proteomics – new opportunities for precise diagnostics and disease prediction

Recent advances in the proteomic analyses of human blood have revealed new insights and tools for monitoring disease and health. SomaLogic, who recently merged with Standard BioTools has been one of the major contributors to this rapid development. Stephen A. Williams is Chief Medical Officer at Somalogic (now Standard BioTools). He was also one of the speakers at Stockholm Science City's panel discussion Future Health, on March 19.

Foto av Stephen A WilliamsStephen A. Williams.

Standard BioTools develops proteomics services to measure and analyze the levels of proteins of up to 11,000 proteins in one sample. Different sample types, such as tissue, plasma, serum and urine, can be analyzed. Here we'll learn about new insights, new applications and what the main challenges are for implementation of these tools.

Stephen’s role is to be the architect of how to responsibly adopt proteomics technologies into clinical trials and healthcare; to evaluate the use-cases where the novel features of our platform technologies can deliver a benefit to customers and patients vs. available alternatives.

What new insights can be gained (e.g. in comparison to genetic analyses)?

– Proteins are downstream to the genetic blueprint but also to changes in the environment and human behaviors. Proteins work in network patterns, and are the targets of 95% of all known drugs. By measuring the network patterns, we can deduce information about current health states, future risks and the impacts of behaviors and health interventions. Because protein patterns can change, we can also track differences over time, and determine whether a drug or a behavior is good or bad.

Which new applications are you most excited about?

– Some of the patterns have been developed into predictive tests, that have been validated in thousands or tens of thousands of people. One example is for liver disease from metabolic ill-health (metabolism associated steato-hepatitis, MASH), where proteomics can reflect the key components of a liver biopsy, reducing the need for this costly and risky procedure in clinical trials. Another is to predict who will have a serious cardiovascular event within the next four years; this is being used in healthcare to help plan treatments, and in clinical trials to understand early whether a new drug is likely to have a clinical benefit. Finally, in Japan, about twenty different but simultaneous predictions from a single blood sample are being used for preventative health management.

What are the main challenges with using and implementing these applications?

– The first challenge is that blood is a living tissue, and we had to understand what effects there were on the proteins in it between the vein in the arm and the tests. The second challenge was making the assay work to measure more proteins than had been possible in the past. The third challenge is that regulators, payors (including health-insurers) and clinical providers are not used to being able to make a single “liquid health check” for many diseases at once. Finally, we generally emphasize fixing current diseases rather than preventing future ones. 

If you take a look into your crystal bowl – how is proteomics used in healthcare five years from now?

– In clinical trials, there will be widespread adoption of proteomics for “fingerprinting” the effects of drugs and of the use of validated predictive tests for detecting benefits and risks earlier in smaller/shorter trials. In Japan, where they care about longevity and invest in preventative healthcare, the uptake of proteomics will show the world how it might be done more comprehensively. In the US, with health insurance coverage for each individual changing every two years, proteomic applications will focus on the immediate benefits of directing expensive drug treatments to the patients who need them the most – but preventative health will remain neglected except for wealthy individuals who can pay for themselves. And in Europe, while health systems are theoretically more invested in long-term health, in the words of one senior health system leader “you will uncover unmet medical needs that we can’t afford to address”, so uptake will be slow.


Recording from the panel discussion

On March 19, 2024, Stockholm Science City and Standard BioTools arranged the panel discussion Future Health: Blood proteomics – new opportunities for precise diagnostics and disease prediction. Speakers were:

  • Stephen A. Williams, Chief Medical Officer at Standard BioTools (formerly known as SomaLogic)
  • Mathias Uhlén, Professor of Microbiology at KTH - Royal Institute of Technology 
  • Maria Pernemalm, Associate professor, Department of oncology pathology, Head of Unit Global Proteomics and Proteogenomics facility at SciLifeLab, Karolinska Institutet 
  • Torbjörn Söderström, Chief Medical Officer at Swedish Medical Products Agency

Watch the recording from the panel discussion on this link >>