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PerkinElmer Expands Prenatal Screening Test Offerings, Introducing First Early Onset Preeclampsia Screening Test in the U.S.

PerkinElmer, a global leader in human and environmental health and an innovator in the field of prenatal screening for more than thirty years, announced today the first available early onset preeclampsia screening test in the United States. The PreeclampsiaScreen™ | T1 serum screening test enables physicians to more precisely detect asymptomatic patients in the first trimester of pregnancy who are at high risk for developing the dangerous condition, allowing for earlier identification, management and intervention. Early onset preeclampsia is a potentially serious condition that affects 0.5% of all pregnancies, often contributing more to the pregnant mother’s and baby’s risks of morbidity and mortality than does the late form of the disorder.

“This first of its kind screen is our latest commitment to providing clinicians with new, innovative ways to address some of today’s most challenging prenatal clinical scenarios,” said Jim Corbett, Senior Vice President and President, Diagnostics and Life Sciences & Technology for PerkinElmer. “Together with our recent advances, including offering a non-invasive prenatal test based on cell-free fetal DNA, plus a wide range of prenatal testing from biochemical screening to SNP microarray testing to detect birth defects and chromosome abnormalities, we’re giving physicians effective new tools for patient management.”

According to Dr. Jiri Sonek, MD RDMS, President, Fetal Medicine Foundation USA, and Adjunct Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology from Wright State University, “Preeclampsia is one of the remaining great challenges in obstetrics. It is a major cause of maternal, fetal, and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Fortunately, some physicians may recommend a simple and inexpensive intervention to reduce the risk of preeclampsia which is available in the form of low-dose aspirin. However, this treatment is effective only if begun early in pregnancy. That is why first trimester screening is such a critical component of preeclampsia prevention.”

Early onset preeclampsia is defined as preeclampsia, a sudden increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine, which leads to delivery of the fetus prior to 34 weeks’ gestation. If found early, options such as increased monitoring, modified activity, bed rest and medication can help reduce or avoid complications related to early onset preeclampsia.

PreeclampsiaScreen™ | T1 is administered during the first trimester of pregnancy through a simple blood test to detect three biochemical markers in the mother’s blood: PAPP-A (pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A); PlGF (placental growth factor) and AFP (alpha fetoprotein) that, when evaluated collectively with personal demographic data, provide an individual risk of developing early onset preeclampsia. Physicians have the option to provide two additional biophysical measurements for their patients — mean arterial pressure (MAP) and uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index (UtAD-PI) – each increasing the sensitivity of the screen when included in the testing protocol.

Source: PerkinElmer

New Biomarker Could Reveal Alzheimer’s Disease Years Before Onset

A study published recently reported the identification of what may be the earliest known biomarker associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The results suggest that this novel potential biomarker is present in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) at least a decade before signs of dementia manifest.

“If our initial findings can be replicated by other laboratories, the results will change the way we currently think about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ramon Trullas, research professor at the CSIC Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona and lead author of the study that was published in Annals of Neurology. “This discovery may enable us to search for more effective treatments that can be administered during the preclinical stage.”

Difficult Diagnosis

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than five million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. At present, the only way to accurately diagnose the disease is by post-mortem neuropathological analysis. The relationship of currently known biomarkers with the cause of the disease is unclear, making it nearly impossible to diagnose preclinical stages of the disease with any real certainty.

The CSIC researchers demonstrated that a decrease in the content of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in CSF may be a preclinical indicator for Alzheimer’s disease; furthermore, there may be a directly causative relationship. The hypothesis is that decreased mtDNA levels in CSF reflect the diminished ability of mitochondria to power the brain’s neurons, triggering their death. The decrease in the concentration of mtDNA precedes the appearance of well-known biochemical Alzheimer’s biomarkers (the Aβ1-42, t-tau, and p-tau proteins), suggesting that the pathophysiological process of Alzheimer’s disease starts earlier than previously thought and that mtDNA depletion may be one of the earliest predictors for the disease.

In addition to enabling an investigation of the potential causal relationship of mtDNA and Alzheimer’s progression, the use of mtDNA as an index of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease provides an important advantage over previous biochemical markers: the detection of this novel nucleic acid biomarker is unhampered by the technical difficulties associated with protein detection. mtDNA can be readily quantified by real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) or droplet digital PCR (ddPCR).

Quantitation of mtDNA

Prior to this study, researchers had not reported that circulating cell-free mtDNA could be detected in human CSF. But with this study, Dr. Trullas’ team was able to both detect and reproducibly quantitate mtDNA using qPCR, carefully optimized by adhering to the MIQE guidelines.

To validate their qPCR findings, Dr. Trullas’ team used Bio-Rad Laboratories’ QX100™ Droplet Digital™ PCR system. Unlike qPCR assays, the QX100 system provides an absolute quantification of target DNA molecules without the need for a standard curve. In addition, an important factor for their CSF analysis was that the Droplet Digital PCR system did not require sample purification to remove PCR inhibitors, as is necessary for qPCR assays.

“Droplet Digital PCR allowed us to validate our initial qPCR measurements because it provides absolute quantitation at the single-molecule level without relying on a standard curve,” said Dr. Trullas. “As the technology becomes more widely adopted, we anticipate that Droplet Digital PCR will be the future of detecting mtDNA in cerebral spinal fluid.”

Dr. Trullas hopes that other laboratories and hospitals will successfully replicate his group’s research results, confirming that reduced mtDNA levels should be investigated as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease. By finding a way to block this degeneration, clinicians may be able to diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear.

Study: Low CSF concentration of mitochondrial DNA in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease [Annals of Neurology]

Source: Bio-Rad

Cancer Patients to See More Precise Oncology Treatment via Innovative Life Sciences Coalition

GenoSpace, PathGroup and the IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters recently announced an innovative initiative to develop and deliver a best-in-class personalized medicine service in oncology, the result of which will enable physicians to make more precise therapeutic recommendations for cancer patients.

This partnership combines resources, technology and expertise across the three organizations to integrate PathGroup’s SmartGenomics™ Next Generation DNA Sequencing and Cytogenomic Array with traditional pathology assays, providing a unique window into disease and patient treatment options through genetic profiling.

“Collaboration is essential to deliver more precise medical solutions in today’s Big Data environment,” said Jon Brett-Harris, managing director, Thomson Reuters Life Sciences. “Our coalition with GenoSpace and PathGroup leverages each organization’s unique assets, making significant improvements in treatment options for cancer patients.”

PathGroup’s industry-leading anatomic, clinical and molecular pathology services are integrated with the unparalleled information on genes, variants and therapeutic implications from Thomson Reuters. These are then overlaid with GenoSpace’s advanced analytical and information integration capabilities to place this diverse data into context. Oncologists will soon start receiving individualized reports that provide targeted information to help identify the best possible therapy for their patients.

“We have entered a new age of personalized medicine,” said Ben Davis, MD, Chairman, president and CEO of PathGroup. “It is one in which the unique genetic profile of each patient’s tumor, placed in the context of their disease, can help physicians select treatment options and improve outcomes. The GenoSpace and Thomson Reuters contributions to our SmartGenomics analyses add a highly sophisticated tool to our pathologist’s armamentarium in developing a patient genomic dossier.”

“One challenge in personalized medicine is assuring that what the physicians see is the most accurate and up-to-date information,” added Joseph Donahue, senior vice president of Thomson Reuters Life Sciences. “Thomson Reuters has always been focused on providing the most comprehensive information on genes and their functions, and we are delighted to be able to partner with PathGroup and GenoSpace to demonstrate how that information can be used to improve health care delivery.”

John Quackenbush, Ph.D., CEO of GenoSpace, said, “The GenoSpace FullView™ and GenoSpace for Clinical™ platforms integrate the vast pathology resources available at PathGroup with sequence and array data and information, tying in the extensive knowledgebase available through Thomson Reuters, to deliver concise, relevant and actionable reports to oncologists in a format that they find useful in making treatment decisions. By bringing together the complementary strengths of each company, we will be able to deliver a market-leading solution in personalized genomic medicine.”

Source: Thomson Reuters

Big Data From Alzheimer’s Disease Whole Genome Sequencing Will Be Available to Researchers Due to Novel Global Research Database

The Alzheimer’s Association and the Brin Wojcicki Foundation announced recently that massive amounts of new data have been generated by the first “Big Data” project for Alzheimer’s disease. The data will be made freely available to researchers worldwide to quickly advance Alzheimer’s science.

Discussed recently at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2013 in Boston, the project obtained whole genome sequences on the largest cohort of individuals related to a single disease – more than 800 people enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).

The genome sequencing data – estimated to be 200 terabytes – will be housed in and available through the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN), a planned massive network of Alzheimer’s disease research data made available by the world’s foremost Alzheimer’s researchers from their own laboratories, and which also is being publicly announced today at AAIC 2013. GAAIN is funded by an initial $5 million dollar investment by the Alzheimer’s Association, made possible due to the generous support of donors.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is committed to creating open access to research data, and we believe GAAIN will transform how neuroscience data is shared and accessed by scientists throughout the world,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations. “By fostering a higher level of global data sharing, GAAIN will accelerate investigation and discovery in Alzheimer’s through a system comparable to a search engine like Google or Bing for relevant data.”

“With the addition of more than 800 whole genomes on ADNI subjects that can be linked to the current rich dataset, ADNI data will be even more useful to scientists who are seeking new approaches to treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Robert C. Green, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who led the ADNI sequencing project. “ADNI is a leader in open data sharing, having provided clinical, imaging and biomarker data to over 4,000 qualified scientists around the world, which has generated over 700 scientific manuscripts.

First, Massive Whole Genome Sequencing Project in Alzheimer’s Disease

Whole genome sequencing determines all six billion letters in an individual’s DNA in one comprehensive analysis. The raw data from the ADNI project is being made available to qualified scientists around the globe to mine for novel targets for risk assessment, new therapies, and much-needed insight into the causes of the fatal brain disease. The new data may enable scientists to better understand how our genes cause and are affected by bodily changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

ADNI enrolls people with Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and normal cognition who have agreed to be studied in great detail over time. The goal is to identify and understand markers of the disease in body fluids, structural changes in the brain, and measures of memory; the hope is to improve early diagnosis and accelerate the discovery of new treatments. ADNI is led by Principal Investigator Michael W. Weiner, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Dr. Green collaborated on managing the sequencing efforts with Arthur Toga, Ph.D., of UCLA and Andrew J. Saykin, Psy.D., of Indiana University. The actual genome sequencing was performed at Illumina, Inc.

ADNI is a public-private research project led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with private sector support through the Foundation for NIH. Launched in 2004, ADNI’s public-private funding consortium includes pharmaceutical companies, science-related businesses, and nonprofit organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association and the Northern California Institute for Research and Education.

The Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN)

Data-sharing has already greatly benefitted scientific disciplines such as genetics, molecular biology, and the physical sciences. Data-sharing in genetics has led to dramatic advances in understanding the risk factors underlying complex diseases. The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) is a compelling example of dozens of geographically-dispersed researchers working together to share their data while making it freely available to others for analysis and publication.

“GAAIN is similar in spirit and goals to other ‘big data’ initiatives that seek to greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and make discoveries from huge volumes of digital data,” Carrillo said. “The advent of cloud computing makes it possible to link databases throughout the world and expand their data processing capability significantly to benefit the research community.”

Carrillo will supervise the development of GAAIN in conjunction with co-principal investigators Art Toga, Ph.D., of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) at the University of Southern California and Giovanni Frisoni, M.D., of the National Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care and the Instituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Italy. Enrique Castro-Leon, Ph.D., who will serve as a consultant, is an enterprise and data center architect for strategic partner Intel Digital Enterprise Group.

GAAIN is built on an international database framework already in use by thousands of scientists and local computational facilities in North America and Europe. The network makes research data available free-of-charge for searching, downloading, and processing across a cloud-based, grid-network infrastructure accessible anywhere through Internet access.

The key to GAAIN’s innovation is its federation of data, which is unprecedented for such a system. GAAIN leadership will invite scientists conducting qualified studies to become partners by permitting GAAIN to link directly to their databases. This will enable researchers to add continually to their data sets and keep all data in GAAIN current and dynamic. It also will enable the scientists to retain control over access to their data, which the Association believes will be important to encouraging participation.

“This is unprecedented and of the utmost importance in brain research, where sometimes thousands of examples are required to observe even the smallest change in the brain,” said Giovanni Frisoni, M.D., neurologist and deputy scientific director at the National Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care at the IRCCS. He will lead the work of GAAIN in Europe.

“Through GAAIN we envision combining massive amounts of data from multiple sources across many subjects participating in numerous studies,” said Art Toga, Ph.D., professor of neurology at UCLA and director of LONI. “This will provide more statistical power than ever before.”

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

Cell Reports Publication Elucidates Role of FACT as Accelerator of Tumor Transformation and Potential Marker and Target of Aggressive Cancers

Cleveland BioLabs, Inc. (Nasdaq:CBLI), Incuron, LLC, a joint venture between CBLI and Bioprocess Capital Ventures, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) today announced the publication of studies describing the Facilitates Chromatin Transcription (FACT) complex as an accelerator of tumor transformation and a potential marker and target for aggressive cancers in Cell Reports, a peer-reviewed journal. FACT is the molecular target for Curaxins, a new class of anti-cancer compounds being developed by Incuron. The reported studies were led by scientists at RPCI.

The FACT complex is involved in chromatin remodeling during transcription, replication, and DNA repair. These studies confirm an association between FACT and cancer by showing that FACT is expressed at higher levels in tumor cell lines than in normal cells in vitro and that elimination of FACT expression leads to reduced growth and decreased survival of tumor cells. The published work concludes that FACT’s role in cancer likely involves selective chromatin remodeling of genes that stimulate proliferation, inhibit cell death and differentiation, and regulate cellular stress responses, making it an enabler of oncogene-induced transformation.

In addition, the studies establish a statistically significant association between the frequency and level of FACT expression and tumor aggressiveness. The studies demonstrated that FACT is predominantly expressed in aggressive undifferentiated cancers that result in poor overall patient survival because of the development of metastatic disease, irrespective of tumor size at the time of diagnosis. This increases the potential value of FACT as a prognostic marker, as FACT positivity of a primary tumor could be used at a very early stage to determine the risk of future metastatic disease.

“This recent publication builds upon our previous work showing that FACT is the molecular target of Curaxins,” noted Katerina Gurova, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Cell Stress Biology at RPCI and lead author. “The data presented in the Cell Reports publication indicate that FACT is a promising marker and target for subtypes of cancer characterized by high grade and aggressiveness, and poor prognosis. This, together with the absence of FACT expression in most normal tissues, suggests that pharmacological inhibition of FACT using Curaxins could be an effective strategy to treat types of cancer for which there are currently few treatment options.”

Jean Viallet, M.D., Chief Development Officer at Cleveland BioLabs, stated, “We are evaluating the enormous body of data collected by our collaborators on FACT expression and its role in cancer progression in an effort to focus our next trials with our lead Curaxin drug candidate, CBL0137. Our plan is to enrich the upcoming study of the intravenous administration of CBL0137 in patients with metastatic or unresectable advanced solid tumors and lymphomas by including patients whose tumor types are dependent on transcriptional oncogenes.”

In March 2013, a Notice of Allowance was received from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an Investigational New Drug Application for intravenous administration of CBL0137. A Phase 1 single-agent dose-escalation study of oral administration of CBL0137 in patients with advanced solid tumors that are resistant or refractory to standard-of-care treatment is ongoing in the Russian Federation.

Study: Facilitates Chromatin Transcription Complex Is an “Accelerator” of Tumor Transformation and Potential Marker and Target of Aggressive Cancers

Source: Cleveland BioLabs