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Marking Shift in Company Strategy, Sigma-Aldrich Teams With BU, NHLBI on Biomarker Validation

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By Adam Bonislawski

Sigma-Aldrich said this week that it will develop and run assays to validate potential protein biomarkers for cardiovascular disease as part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study.

The collaboration stems from the company's desire to "participate more closely in discovery projects," George Lipscomb, market segment manager for protein assays at Sigma Life Science, told ProteoMonitor. The move also signals a shift in direction the company announced in March when it launched its new Life Science division.

The five-year agreement calls for Sigma to create antibodies that can validate roughly 180 biomarkers associated with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and to develop and run the validation assays on a multiplex platform in its St. Louis laboratory.

Sigma will be using plasma samples from approximately 7,000 FHS participants for the analysis. The current 180-biomarker target could rise, Lipscomb noted, "depending on new literature and new discoveries."

Traditionally a reagents provider, Sigma will participate in the FHS collaboration more as a biomarker-testing firm like Rules-Based Medicine.

"This project is a new direction for us," Lipscomb said. "This is one iteration of [our] forward-looking vision where we are a destination for not only the individual reagents, but also for the knowledge and the analytical methodologies where those reagents are deployed."

The new approach could provide a model for potential future agreements, he suggested, saying that "the success that we will achieve with this project will be an indication of how we will move forward in future collaborations."

NHLBI and Boston University's School of Medicine and School of Public Health run the Framingham study. NHLBI is providing funding to Sigma-Aldrich under a research sub-agreement with BU. Lipscomb declined to disclose the financial terms of the agreement.

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