SomaLogic Partners with Agilent to Distribute Proteomic Technology

8/13/13Follow @MichaelXBD

SomaLogic and Agilent Technologies announced Monday they have formed a partnership to install SomaLogic’s protein biomarker discovery platform at research centers around the country.

The Boulder, CO-based biotech is developing diagnostic tests that use protein biomarkers to identify illnesses. The tests are based on the idea that diseases create telltale proteins as they develop and spread. Such proteins are early indicators that can be found before patients are symptomatic, which could lead to earlier and more effective treatment.

SomaLogic also has a development deal with Quest Diagnostics, and the first product they plan to work on together is a blood test for early detection of non-small cell lung cancer.

The agreement with Agilent will promote and sell SOMAscan, the biomarker discovery platform SomaLogic developed in order to create diagnostic tools. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The platform can detect and measure 1,129 protein analytes, according to SomaLogic, and has a throughput of nearly a thousand samples per week. Agilent’s custom microarrays are used in the product.

SomaLogic already uses SOMAscan for studies by outside researchers. Company spokesman Fintan Steele wrote in an e-mail that the demand has exceeded what the Boulder-based operations can handle.

“The only current way to access SOMAscan is on a fee-for-service basis, as we are the only place to date where the assay is done,” he said. “But demand is starting to outstrip our bandwidth.”

For Agilent (NYSE: A), the deal offers a way to spread its array businesses into proteomics, the study of proteins.

“This agreement will greatly enhance our current microarray offerings by expanding them into the rapidly growing proteomics market,” Jacob Thaysen, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Genomics Solutions Division, said in a statement.

SomaLogic is providing reagents and will help with installation. The deal will allow academic centers and contract researchers to acquire what is essentially “a clone” of the technology SomaLogic uses in Boulder, Steele wrote.

“We are initially looking at up to five top-flight early-adopter centers to begin with, but plan to expand that number subsequently with our Agilent colleagues,” he wrote. “Our goal is to have the first couple operational as soon as possible, though [it] may be several months.”

The platform’s applications include biomarker discovery and drug development, and interest looks strong enough to build a consistent revenue stream, Steele said.

SomaLogic will continue to develop its own diagnostic tools it can sell to healthcare providers.

“We want SOMAscan to become the standard for medical monitoring of one’s health,” Steele wrote.

SomaLogic has raised more than $200 million since it was founded in 2000, and currently it has about 100 employees. Larry Gold, the company’s founder, chairman, and CEO, also founded NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, which Gilead Sciences acquired in 1999 for $550 million. Before that he cofounded Synergen, which Amgen bought in 1994 for $239 million.

Gold said in an interview earlier this year that SomaLogic spent several years trying to gain traction and overcome skepticism from the research and medical community.

After coping with naysayers, he believes his company’s technology is poised to catch on. “It works better than anything I have ever seen,” he said. “In the last few years, the appreciation by the biotech and pharma companies has been gigantic, the appreciation by the diagnostics community is very high, and the medical community will come on board soon.”

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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