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Ruggles Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr. Make $1.25M Donation to J. Craig Venter Institute for New Study to Identify and Elucidate Healthy Aging Biomarkers

The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, recently announced that the Ruggles Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr. have made a $1.25 million donation to JCVI to identify and study biomarkers associated with healthy aging. As part of the four year grant, JCVI will collaborate with the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN), located in Danbury, CT.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists and clinicians from JCVI and WCHN, will focus on two groups of elderly individuals aged 65 to 85 years by correlating genetics with a variety of human genomic, gut microbiome and other “omics” profiles and integrating these data with the individuals’ health record. One group will consist of healthy individuals, and the other will have individuals with a variety of diagnosed health conditions. The team will then compare the microbiome and molecular profiles of the healthy aging group with those of the non-healthy aging group to identify biomarker candidates. The investigators hope that in the future these data can be used to develop cost-effective, clinically relevant tests.

“As traditional modes of funding for science become less and less plentiful, the need for informed and supportive philanthropic donors is more important than ever. We are grateful for the support of Rudy and Sara and the Ruggles Family Foundation as this will enable us to better understand what healthy aging looks like at the genomic level,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., JCVI Founder and CEO.

“The time is right for pursuing the complex question of healthy aging given the rapid advances in analytical technologies and the expanding knowledge of the human genome and microbiome and their interactions. JCVI’s capabilities in this realm are unparalleled, and I am confident that this ground breaking study will expand materially the horizons of this area of fundamental understanding,” said Rudy Ruggles, a physicist and Adjunct Professor at JCVI, who is a healthy 74 years old and a participant in this study. He is also Chairman of the Research Advisory Council of WCHN’s Biomedical Research Institute.

According to a United Nations report, in 1950 there were 205 million people worldwide aged 60 or older. By 2000 there were 606 million aged 60 or older, and they project that by 2050 this figure will reach nearly 2 billion people who are 60 or older. Understanding the elderly patient and figuring out modes of intervention to better prevent and treat disease associated with aging will continue to be an important area of research.

In addition to more comprehensively studied human genetic factors, other areas of human health and biology that influence and define healthy aging in humans are emerging. For example, a healthy microbiome (the full complement of microbes that live on and in the human body) interacts with the human immune system establishing protective activities when necessary. Low-grade chronic inflammation in humans is a risk factor for the development of more serious diseases that reduce life spans. New tools and technologies developed since the first sequencing of the human and other genomes are now allowing researchers to explore the human body in more detail than ever before, including identifying biological signatures (biomarkers) indicative and even predictive of healthy aging.

According to JCVI President Karen Nelson, Ph.D., “JCVI’s extensive knowledge in human genomics, comparative genomics and the human microbiome, coupled with the clinical expertise of WCHN, should result in new insights into healthy aging. We are excited to add this new study to our repertoire of ongoing human microbiome studies as it will enhance our knowledge in this important area of research.”

For more information on how to support the genomics research programs at JCVI, contact Katie Collins, 858-200-1847.

Source: The J. Craig Venter Institute

Oncotest GmbH and Debiopharm Group™ Announce a Successful Partnership in the Identification of Biomarker Candidates

Oncotest GmbH and Debiopharm Group™ (Debiopharm) a Swiss-based global biopharmaceutical group, recently announced the successful completion of the first biomarker projects at Oncotest. In a recent study, pharmacological data was generated with Debiopharm’s investigational compound in Oncotest’s 3D assay system for patient-derived xenografts and correlated with the extensive Oncotest’s genomic and transcriptomic data. The collaboration resulted in the identification of several predictive biomarkers candidates including a gene signature.

“We are enthusiastic to work with Debiopharm on these projects and are looking forward to continue and expand our collaboration. I am convinced that the concept of deriving predictive biomarkers for new drugs already in a preclinical setting will make an impact. Ultimately, it has a significant potential to lower the attrition rates in clinical trials. Today, with our new biomarker department and the characterization data available for our tumor models, Oncotest is ideally positioned in this area.” said Prof. Heiner Fiebig, Founder and CEO of Oncotest.

Dr. Hiroaki Tanaka, Personalized Medicine Director at Debiopharm added: “Reliable preclinical models are key success factors in drug development. We believe that technologies based on the direct use of patient tumors have a game-changer potential in translational research in oncology. We are happy to collaborate with Oncotest, a pioneer and a leader in the area, and we are looking forward to extending our partnership even further towards the achievement of personalized medicine.”

Source: Debiopharm Group

VTT and GE Healthcare Developing Novel Biomarkers to Predict Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland have recently discovered a serum biochemical signature which predicts progression to Alzheimer’s disease months or even years before the first symptoms of the disease occur. The goal of the new collaboration between VTT and GE Healthcare is to validate this biomarker in a large patient cohort as well as to discover novel biomarker candidates.

Immunodepletion Followed by LC-MS/MS is Best for Serum-based Clinical Discovery Biomarkers

The discovery of human serum or plasma biomarkers is hindered by the presence of highly abundant proteins that may mask many low abundant species that have clinical value. A recent study in the journal Proteomics systematically compared immunodepletion of 6, 14 or 20 proteins using serum from renal transplant patients and analyzed reproducibility, depth of coverage, efficiency and specificity on two analytical platforms: 2-D differential gel electrophoresis (DIGE) (‘top-down’) and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) (‘bottom-up’).

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation and Rules-Based Medicine Collaborate on SMA Biomarker Panel

The Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Foundation and Rules-based Medicine (RBM) have reached the first milestone in a program to develop a panel of plasma protein biomarkers for SMA using RBM’s Multi-Analyte Profiling (MAP) technology platform.