BioConnect Ireland biomarkers event

‘Biomarkers – Sensing the Future Challenges in the Road from the Bench to the Clinic’

Since 2001 BioConnect Ireland has promoted forward-thinking interactions and exchanges between academia, industry, government agencies and financial organisations through networking events. Last Tuesday 28th October yet another informative meeting was held.

Heatmap in biomarker analysis

Clinical biomarkers acting as indicators of either normal biological or pathogenic processes provide vital information in diagnosis, prognosis and prediction of drug response. Recently, biomarkers are playing an increasingly important role in the discovery and development of new drugs with companion diagnostics and the running of clinical trials on biomarker-defined patient population. With widely-prescribed blockbuster drugs unlikely to be developed as easily as in the past, discovery and validation of biomarkers is a major focus of current R&D investment. A recent US review showed that the NIH funded 29,000 biomarker grants over a recent 25 year period, at a total cost of $2.5 billion. While this investment has resulted in the identification of many potential biomarkers, there has not been a corresponding uptake of new biomarkers for patient care.
The meeting addressed overall progress in biomarker development and commercialisation, and barriers to their progression from the bench to the clinic. Invited speakers from industry and clinic offered a good overview of the complex journey involved with converting a biochemical or genetic indicator into a clinically applicable test. Dr. Cormac Kilty (Biotech entrepreneur and investor) underlined the importance of strong analytical data prior to embarking on any patenting route. Dr. Patricia McLoughlin (Director Companion Diagnostic Partnership from QIAGEN), described how a coherent biomarker strategy can enable stratified medicine. Prof John Crown (St Vincent’s University Hospital) Consultant Medical Oncologist, gave a powerful talk explaining how the most effective drugs in oncology are those with associated biomarkers (Herceptin, Gleevec), and stressed the need for more biomarker candidates for a number of cancers. Fergus Fleming (Senior Project manager EKF Diagnostic) presented a case study in biomarker commercialisation for predicting diabetic nephropathy.

A number of short presentations within an open mike session introduced a variety of companies and public-private partnerships to their Bioconnect colleagues. The Java presentation highlighted one of our projects on the applications of biomarkers in a phase I clinical trial context.

The meeting and networking was of great benefit to the Java team present as development of biomarkers in the area of cardiovascular disease is a key element of our scientific strategy. We have recently been awarded an R&D grant from Enterprise Ireland to refine robust analysis platform for the identification of proteomic markers in clinical samples. We are currently developing techniques to look at changes in proteins within platelets of healthy volunteers and CVD patients.