A team of scientists headed by a Caprion Proteomics researcher was awarded a three-year, C$2 million ($1.8 million) grant to use the Montreal firm's CellCarta technology to discover new biomarkers that can accurately measure pancreatic beta-cell mass and function and to determine the most effective treatment for type-2 diabetes.
The grant winner, Eustache Paramithiotis, senior director of cell and molecular biology at Caprion, will be lead investigator on the project and are joined by Marc Prentki at the University of Montreal's CHUM Research Center and Remi Rabasa-Lhoret at the school's Montreal Clinical Research Institute.
As part of the grant announced this week, Caprion will contribute its CellCarta technology and knowledge in translational medicine. Prentki is an expert in the biology of beta-cells and Rabasa-Lhoret will contribute clinical knowledge.
While tests exist that measure pancreatic status of diabetics, they do so indirectly and can therefore be inaccurate, creating a need for better measurement tools, Paramithiotis told ProteoMonitor this week.
"The variables that are interceding between the beta cell and the measurement sometimes results in contradictory results, and other times don't give you the full picture of what's going on," he said.
For their research, Paramithiotis and his team will investigate fresh human and animal-model samples "to examine specifically the secreted proteins from the isolated cells under normal conditions and under stressful conditions."
Researchers have studied whole beta cells in diabetes research in the past, but these cells can result in a massive amount of data that may not be particularly useful, according to Paramithiotis. He and his team, instead, will explore the cell's secretory vesicle, "which is less than 1 percent of cellular proteins but contains all the proteins that are going to be secreted by the cell into the blood. … And by focusing our analysis specifically on that subset we hope to be able to drill very deep," he said.
Early work collecting the samples has begun, he said, though the research methods for the project are still being ironed out.
The second aspect of Paramithiotis' project will be to identify biomarkers that can predict how an individual with type-2 diabetes will respond to certain treatments. While insulin is the most common treatment for type-1 diabetes, type-2 diabetes, by far the more common form of the disease, is insulin-resistant and requires other treatments. And though there are myriad regimens for type-2 diabetes, not everyone responds equally well to any one treatment.
Paramithiotis and his colleagues are now figuring out which treatments are the best candidates to study, and want "to focus down on the ones that we are most likely to get quality samples and have an impact," Paramithiotis said.
The grant is part of a total of C$8 million given by the Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery to four winning teams. As reported this week by ProteoMonitor's sister publication Biotech Transfer Week, the awards are meant to promote development of innovative technologies to facilitate new-drug discovery.
Launched last year, the CQDM is a public-private partnership aimed at commercializing drug-discovery research of interest to Canadian pharma.