The Potential of Proteomics

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-08-01-2022, Volume 42, Issue 8

Major stakeholders—including policymakers, public-private interests, and academia—are increasingly embracing the potential of proteomics technology in reshaping diagnostics and patient care.

Around the world, we are at a critical point in managing patient care. Healthcare systems are facing unprecedented challenges with rising costs, staffing shortages, a lack of funding, and managing the integration of advanced health technology into patient care, to name just a few. Ultimately, these challenges impact patients who require more personalized treatment—driving the three Rs of the right care at the right time to get the right results. Access to preventative and clinical diagnostics and treatments are a critical component to improving patient outcomes in the years ahead.

Precision medicine, which embraces the three-R approach, offers a promising future in healthcare by utilizing molecular information to generate insights that can help to prevent and treat some of the most serious diseases, including cancer, dementia, and cardiovascular disease. Many governments and health systems are attempting to harness the enormous potential of precision medicine. By working with innovators to facilitate clinical research in this area, regulators and healthcare professionals can trial and approve new targeted therapies. This is to ensure that the right technology is in place to identify patients with certain biomarkers, which can help us to understand what will affect their health outcomes.

One important facilitator of precision medicine is proteomics, which is the study of disease at protein-activity level in the body. Proteomics can complement genomic information to enable and improve the discovery of biomarkers that hold the key to understanding how diseases develop.

Genomic sequencing and analysis are becoming more commonplace; an example of this is supporting the identification of mutations in cancer types and the targeted therapies to treat them. Proteomics helps us to delve further into genetic mutations, enabling deeper research into tumor types by identifying and quantifying multiple proteins in a single patient sample.

The UK Biobank is a world-leading database containing the genetic information of half a million participants. This type of data access is helping to drive precision medicine research by the life sciences industry. The biobank is a great example of how government planning can support a truly pioneering scientific program that is a foundation for future research and will help us to understand more about the spread and severity of disease.

It is encouraging that critical stakeholders are acknowledging the potential of proteomics. For example, UK Life Sciences Vision identifies harnessing proteomics technologies as key in bringing the best emerging science to bear in combating disease. Policymakers are beginning to understand proteomics’ role in improving diagnosis, stratification of patients, referrals to clinical trials, and personalized therapeutics.

While the concept is exciting and transformative, the challenge for health systems is how to incorporate proteomics into routine diagnostics and therapeutic medical care. There are considerable hurdles to overcome, including ethics, data management, workforce training, and cost of technology.

Nonetheless, creating novel proteomics capabilities in hospitals should be prioritized to improve cancer care. Leading cancer centers across the EU, US, and China have taken major steps in this direction over the past few years. At Thermo Fisher Scientific, we are actively engaged with health systems to incorporate this and other innovative technologies into future treatment options.

More ambitiously, we should be taking the lessons from how genomic screening and proteomics technology was used to combat COVID-19—supporting the development of vaccines and antibody treatments. In order to remain on the cutting edge of patient care, health systems should seek to create national public-private collaborations on advanced proteomics that complement existing screening programs for new and emerging infectious diseases.

Ultimately, with the demographic shifts taking place across many parts of the world, we need to find creative and more robust ways of preventing disease to keep our health systems functioning optimally. I believe predictive medicine, leveraging the technology advancements of the last decade, shows significant promise in helping not only to prevent disease but to treat disease more effectively based on individual needs. We must get smarter with how we manage health moving forward, and I welcome the partnerships that can be built across government, the private sector, and academic institutions to continue to advance this science.

Claire Wallace, President, microbiology, specialty diagnostics, Thermo Fisher Scientific