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Lee Hood's New Personalized Dx Firm Launches with $30M in Funding; Will Focus on Organ-Specific Protein Markers

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By Turna Ray

A new startup founded by personalized medicine advocate Leroy Hood will focus on decreasing the cost and time it takes to develop diagnostics that are based on organ-specific biomarkers, according to Hood.

The company, Integrated Diagnostics, launched this week with $30 million in funding from venture capital firm InterWest Partners, the Wellcome Trust, and Dievini Hoop Biotech Holding. Integrated Dx is the first commercial venture to result from a personalized medicine collaboration between the government of Luxembourg and three US research institutions, among them the Institute of Systems Biology, which is led by Hood [see PGx Reporter 06-18-2008].

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg plans to invest in Integrated Dx in the future, which will grant the company access to research from the ongoing collaboration between Luxembourg and ISB to discover lung cancer biomarkers and develop the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine.

According to a statement issued by Integrated Dx, the company will focus on developing diagnostic tools to help patients and physicians detect disease in its earliest stages. "Integrated Diagnostics has several promising initial targets and is approximately three to four years from commercialization," a company spokesperson told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week.

The company is one part of Hood's armamentarium of projects using systems biology approaches to transform healthcare from being reactionary to being "predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory," which he refers to as P4.

Hood recently discussed ISB's collaboration with Ohio State University in developing the P4 Medical Institute, which aims to integrate the technical challenge of P4 medicine with societal challenges. The consortium will bring together academia and industry to develop "killer applications" to personalize healthcare [see PGx Reporter 10-07-2009].

"At Integrated Diagnostics we anticipate that the high-value personalized diagnostics developed by our team will catalyze changes in how academic discovery efforts are conducted — and that they will also alter traditional payor models for diagnostics," the company spokesperson said.

Integrated Dx will use Hood's research into protein blood markers, which can provide physiological data on the body's 50 major organs. Using genomic and proteomic techniques, Hood and his research team at ISB will be able to detect protein blood markers in a specific organ site to gain insight into disease states and treatment response.

"By monitoring concentrations of these proteins in the blood, disruptions in healthy function can be detected and traced back to the diseased organ," Integrated Dx said in a statement. "This work is based on the concept of a systems view of disease where pathophysiology arises from disease-perturbed networks of proteins, genes, and other molecules."

Integrated Diagnostics holds IP on organ-specific protein panels that can be applied to the development of "many diagnostic modalities including early detection of disease, stratification of disease types, and monitoring disease progression and recurrence." The company will focus on developing tests for cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease, as well as other conditions.

The company's proprietary organ-specific protein-based approach also promises to shorten development times and lower development costs, according to Hood. An Integrated Dx spokesperson told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week that the company has licensed technology that enables the development of inexpensive, rapid and highly-multiplexed protein assays for biomarker validation.

The company's technologies "will allow us to cut in half the standard development times for diagnostics," Hood said in a statement. "In addition, the company's technologies will ultimately permit the rapid analysis of blood biomarkers from just a fraction of a droplet of blood, at a cost of less than one dollar per protein measured."

Other than Integrated Dx, Hood has previously played a role in the founding of over a dozen companies, including Amgen, Rosetta Inpharmatics, and Applied Biosystems. In the launch of Integrated Dx, Jim Heath, a professor of chemistry at Caltech, also played a critical role, the company said.

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