Protobios: high-profiling of disease

The Estonian biotechnology company Protobios has worked out a patented solution in the field of immune profiling that uses antibody pattern analysis to monitor people’s health conditions and to develop clinical tests for specific diseases.

The Estonian biotechnology company Protobios was established in the year 2003 as a scientific enterprise. The company’s main field of activity is applied research developing advanced diagnostics. The company owns patents to its core technology and developed leads and collaborates with different academic and industrial partners across the globe.

The policy of Protobios is to carry the risk of new projects, acting primarily as a proof-of-concept developer that would further become the seed capital for its spin-offs. By now, Protobios has spawned several successful companies: FibroTx (www.fibrotx.com) producing skin molecular diagnostic tests, Cellin Technologies (www.cellintechnologies.com) producing stem cell-based cell therapy products, and Ipdx Immunoprofiling Diagnostics GmbH – a German-based immune profiling company (www.ipdx.eu).

“In principle, nowadays Protobios itself only deals with the development of different applications of immune profiling technology,” says Dr. Toomas Neuman (Ph.D), cell biologist and board member of Protobios. He explains that immune profiling allows one to determine millions of different disease markers from a blood sample simultaneously instead of just measuring one as current clinical practice.

In the field of immune profiling, Protobios has two paths at the moment – development of a diagnostic service based on immune system analysis, and development of clinical biomarkers for specific diseases.

Patented analysis method

Protobios has developed and patented its core technology called Mimotope Variation Analysis (MVA). “It allows one to describe practically all antibodies present in human body,” Neuman says, adding that with the method they developed, one could analyse ten to a hundred million different antibodies simultaneously. “Together it creates a pattern of antibodies. By analysing these patterns it is possible to start monitoring the person’s health condition – we are able to tell what is going on in the person’s immune system and how is it connected to his/her state of health,“ Neuman explains. Thus the information obtained from the antibody patterns can be used for diagnosis and prognosis of the disease, and for the choice of a correct treatment regimen.

“This is a real high-throughput analysis technique that also requires high volume data computing,” Neuman notes. He adds that at the moment Protobios is working on a novel information platform or a service that would, by using this MVA, analyse these antibody patterns with regard to different disease risks.

Development of clinical tests

Analysis of antibody patterns with MVA technology also provides an opportunity to develop clinical tests for specific diseases. “For example, we have analysed the type II diabetes quite a lot lately and we have found specific antibody patterns clinically useful for diagnosing the pre-type II diabetes,“ Neuman describes. Likewise, the diagnosis of pre-infarction conditions is in the focus.

“We are attempting to combine different antibody patterns and develop real tests,” says Neuman. “Our goal is to achieve tests that a person could take independently at home or a doctor’s office. These tests are, of course, not so precise as the ones taken in the clinical lab, but they are fast, much cheaper, and will still provide the primary information.”

Neuman notes, that the tests based on MVA technology are not meant only for diagnosis, but also for monitoring treatment response. He gives an example: regarding cancer treatment there is much talk of immunotherapies, which are excellent methods of treatment, but they have one major drawback – they don’t work in all people, being effective only on 30-40% of patients. “This is a terrible waste of money and resources. The treatment should be efficient and the person receiving treatment should be cured,” notes Neuman. “Immunoprofiling by MVA is a possibility to start selecting for patients susceptible to therapies directed toward or provoking the immune system. One of our development paths is indeed directed towards finding the right drugs for the right patients.”