LONDON—King's College London and Emerald Logic haveannounced an ongoing partnership in identifying blood markers for Alzheimer'sdisease and other neurological conditions, and creating innovative screeningmethods by integrating biomarkers with other diagnostic models.
The collaboration will involve King's College's large teamof bioinformaticians attempting to discover multiomic blood markers ofAlzheimer's disease, with a specific focus on early preclinical markers,markers of progression, rate of decline and diagnosis. Emerald Logic willassist in this search with the computational power of its FAst CollectiveEvolution Technology, or FACET, software, which can identify which subsets ofdata in complex datasets show relevant interactions by using non-linear,evolutionary computing to quickly identify factors of interest.
The partnership has three successive goals. First is theidentification of factors (especially biomarkers) that are significant inAlzheimer's disease, and also the exploration of which factors or sets of factorsare interactive in the data. Second is the development of novel quantitativemodels for screening that yield significant improvements over existingdiagnostic models for healthcare providers and patients. Third is thedevelopment of a predictive and discriminative model for Alzheimer's diseasethat will enable treatment to be given quickly to the correct patients as earlyas possible in the progression of the disease, possibly even before symptomsappear.
"Early—ideally, preclinical—identification of Alzheimer'sdisease pathology using biomarkers is a critically important research goal andcould enable more effective therapeutic intervention and improved diseasemanagement," says Dr. Richard Dobson, lecturer in bioinformatics at theInstitute of Psychiatry at King's College London. "The use of biomarkers toidentify individuals with Alzheimer's disease prior to the appearance ofclinical symptoms—the so-called predementia phase of the disease—will beessential to the development of drugs for early intervention. Additionally, ifsufficiently powered, some biomarkers could be used as part of a screeningprogram for at-risk elderly people."
"The goal of the collaboration is to produce a quantitativemodel that is both human-readable and usable by a computer to serve as anaccurate classifier, to discriminate between which patients are going todevelop Alzheimer's as opposed to mild cognitive impairment," says PatrickLilley, CEO of Emerald Logic.
Kevin Horgan, an Emerald Logic advisory board memberformerly of GE and Merck, has a personal acquaintance with the keycollaborators from King's College, and facilitated the two organizations comingtogether. Their collaborative efforts have already yielded exciting outcomes,having conducted an initial pilot using 6,000 blood gene expression measuresfrom an Alzheimer's disease biomarker dataset, which confirmed that workingtogether could produce eminently useful results. The pilot effort identified 14discriminative blood markers on 245 study subjects; these markers werevalidated on an additional 82 study subjects in two separate holdout samples.The team was able to use these markers in combination with APOE geneticinformation and demographics to produce a mathematical classifier thatdistinguished Alzheimer's study subjects from controls or with those with mildcognitive impairment with 94-percent accuracy.
"Emerald Logic's software evolved Alzheimer's diseaseclassifiers from our blood markers with the best accuracy we've seen to date,while simultaneously identifying the most useful markers from a vast datasetincluding a whole genome transcript assay," Dr. Simon Lovestone, professor ofold age psychiatry at King's College's Institute of Psychiatry, said in aJanuary media release.
"Some identified biomarkers confirm some of our existingresearch, while others do not appear to have been implicated in Alzheimer'sdisease previously," says Dobson.
Today, there are more than 36 million people diagnosed withAlzheimer's disease worldwide; it is estimated that Alzheimer's affects 1 in 8people over the age of 65.
King's College London is one of the top 30 universities inthe world, and the fourth oldest in England. It enrolls more than 24,000students—including more than 10,000 graduate students—from nearly 140countries, and employs more than 6,100. It is in the top seven U.K.universities for research earnings and had an overall annual income of about$790 million in 2011.
Emerald Logic is a pioneer in quantitative personalizedmedicine and biomarker discovery. The company's FACET software combinesmathematics and principles from biology, engineering and particle physics toanswer intractable questions with high human and economic impact. The companyis based in California.
"The prospective partnership with Emerald Logic willrepresent an important addition to our NIHR Mental Health Biomedical ResearchCentre and Dementia Unit portfolio of collaborative studies on biomarkers fordementia," says Dobson. "As we move forward, Emerald Logic could play an importantrole in these collaborations as well as other projects, including the recentlyfunded IMI European Medical Informatics Framework, a large public-privateconsortium which aims to merge clinical, molecular and neuroimaging datasetsfrom across Europe for studies on Alzheimer's disease."
Lilley expresses enthusiasm for working alongside Lovestoneand Dobson.
"Taking a broad-ranging look at multiple datasets acrossmany types of research—that integrative approach is very powerful," he says."They're not limiting themselves to looking at one narrow area of research: They'rerare in that regard."