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Olink Plans Cardiology, Other Focused Panels; Cites 'Positive' Reception to Fluidigm Partnership

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Olink Bioscience will soon launch a new cardiology-focused protein biomarker panel on its Proseek Multiplex platform, according to CEO Simon Fredriksson.

Uppsala, Sweden-based Olink in July announced the availability of an oncology-focused panel as well as a comarketing agreement with Fluidigm that enables Olink to market its protein-profiling assays together with Fluidigm's BioMark HD system (BAN 8/6/2012).

Fredriksson told BioArray News that reception to the Proseek oncology panel and the Fluidigm relationship has been "very positive," and that there is "a lot of anticipation from customers for new products."

Olink's first focused kit is the Proseek Multiplex Oncology I 96x96. It enables users to interrogate 96 human samples against a panel of 92 analytes, such as growth factors, inflammatory markers, soluble receptors, or cancer antigens. With the addition of four control analytes, users can generate up to 9,216)data points in a few hours, the company said at the time of the launch.

According to Fredriksson, the oncology panel has been sold to "a lot of academics and pharmaceutical companies," but there is "even greater interest" in the firm's forthcoming cardiology panel, which is in beta testing.

At least one other multiplexing or microarray firm has shown similar interest in producing panels for cardiology research.

He said that the content on the panel was developed in collaboration with Agneta Siegbahn, a cardiovascular disease expert affiliated with Sweden's Science for Life Laboratory, or SciLifeLab, and Uppsala University.

The 92-analyte panel contains a "number of well-known risk markers for cardiology coupled with more exploratory markers," and should allow users to get a "more complete picture of the entire cardiology event," including inflammation and regulation components. Ultimately, researchers can obtain "92 protein answers from just one microliter of biobank serum or plasma," Fredriksson claimed.

The new panel should be available by the end of the year.

According to Fredriksson, other panels are in development and are part of a strategy of product proliferation at the company. "If you want to make an impact on the protein biomarker area, especially in the discovery setting, you need to have a very broad offering of many proteins that you can detect, so that is what we are building now in Olink," he said.

Customization will be an option for Olink customers that are willing to support the development of custom panels, Fredriksson said. He said that, should these customers agree to it, Olink could make the same customer-designed panels available as standard products.

'Strong fit'

Privately held Olink was founded in 2004, based on technology developed in the lab of Ulf Landegren, who is a member of Olink's board and is also affiliated with SciLifeLab. He is also the cofounder of Halo Genomics, now part of Agilent Technologies; ParAllele Bioscience, acquired in 2005 by Affymetrix; and Q-linea, an Uppsala-based firm commercializing multiplexing technology for pathogen detection and antibiotic resistance (BAN 10/8/2013).

According to Fredriksson, Olink currently has 35 employees. All of its product development, production, and company operations are based out of its Uppsala headquarters.

Olink's offerings are based on its proximity extension assay. PEA relies on pairs of oligonucleotide-labeled antibodies equipped with DNA reporter molecules to bind to proteins of interest. Olink launched its first product based on the technology, DuoLink, in 2007. DuoLink allows users to analyze cell-signaling pathways by microscopic visualization and quantification of endogenous protein interactions and modifications. Proseek, another product, was launched in 2011. The company compares the performance of Proseek to an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, except that it is read out using RT-PCR.

For Proseek Multiplex, though, it turned to South San Francisco, Calif.-based Fluidigm as a platform provider, and will recommend running its cardiology and other panels on Fluidigm's BioMark HD.

"With this technology, we are converting proteins to DNA, and you can analyze DNA on so many platforms — sequencing, arrays, PCR," said Fredriksson. "All of those technically work, but we see there is a strong fit with the Fluidim platform."

Part of that "strong fit" with Fluidigm is personal. Fredriksson said he became acquainted with the company and its cofounder, California Institute of Technology professor Stephen Quake, while Fredriksson was a postdoc at Stanford University between 2003 and 2007.

When it came to Proseek Multiplex, the decision to "build out our assays on their technology was very natural," said Fredriksson, who became president and CEO of Olink two years ago.

Another reason for the deal is the access researchers have to Fluidigm's instruments, Fredriksson noted.

He said that one of the reasons protein research in general has lagged nucleic acid research — the initial focus of Fluidigm — was that "there hasn't been a corresponding technology that has allowed a shift to large-scale data gathering."

DNA and RNA research has exploded for "technical reasons," he said. While Fredriksson acknowledged that mass spectrometry has been widely adopted in protein research, he said that mass spec "doesn't have the sensitivity to look deeply into the proteome" of blood samples that Olink's technology offers.

"That is where we want to enter the research market," he said, "so that we can solve that technical issue."

Another company eager to address the same issue is Boulder, Colo.-based SomaLogic.

SomaLogic's SomaScan platform relies on the firm's slow off-rate modified aptamer, or Somamer, affinity reagents to qualtify up to 1,129 protein analytes. The Somamers bind to protein targets in a sample and can be quantified using microarrays.

Earlier this year, SomaLogic and Agilent Technologies announced a deal that would expand use of the SomaScan system by placing it into academic and contract research centers that have Agilent equipment.

Fredriksson acknowledged that Olink competes with SomaLogic but did not elaborate.

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