Powering precision medicine with proteomics

Range Bio aims to democratize proteomics technology to bring precision medicine to the masses.

Earlier this summer, proteomics technology company Range Biotechnologies emerged with $5.2 million in seed funding and a mission to move the needle on human health. Combining synthetic biology, genomics and molecular engineering, the company aims to transform personalized health through what it calls “translational proteomics.” By developing methods to measure protein biomarker panels at scale, Range Bio aims to uncover the longitudinal dynamics of human health to enable proactive healthcare.

Longevity.Technology: Proteomics, the study of proteins in the body, has long been touted for its potential to help develop more effective ways to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases, but the field to date has largely focused on the discovery of protein biomarkers. Range Bio is founded on the belief that a significant impact on human health can only be realized if biomarker discovery is complemented by scalable, targeted quantification of proteins. We caught up with the company’s CEO Dr Brandon Wilson and CTO Dr Nicolo Maganzini to find out more.

Stanford lab mates Wilson and Maganzini co-founded Range Bio last year, along with their former professor, Tom Soh, to address key bottlenecks in modern healthcare. One of the main issues, says Wilson, is that most diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, etc) tend to occur gradually, and are the result of many small changes over time.

“Most diagnostics are focused simply on whether you have the disease or not – like it’s a static thing,” he explains. “But that’s not the way that most diseases progress. Often, they progress over decades, but we don’t currently understand the longitudinal dynamics of the human body enough to be able to monitor that.”

Scale and cost are key

Wilson lauds the work of people like Stanford professors Tony Wyss-Coray and Michael Snyder, who he says are “at the forefront” of elucidating these longitudinal dynamics. Their research, he says, in part inspired the creation of Range Bio, which aims to allow the latest understanding of human biology to be leveraged into real-world benefits.

“Scale and cost are main bottlenecks to having a world where we can track the human body over time,” he adds. “Today, the molecular testing system is set up so when get sick, you go to a doctor, who prescribes a test, and insurance reimburses it. Usually, these tests are very expensive – some of them are reimbursed for around $3,000 – it’s insane.”

As healthcare becomes more proactive and starts to focus on things like longevity and healthspan, the need for regular testing means things would quickly become prohibitively expensive.

“It means longevity becomes limited to people like Silicon Valley execs, who don’t care about the cost of the tests,” says Wilson. “If we want to make it available to everyone, we really need to make these tests scalable and accessible from a cost perspective. That’s the bottleneck that we’re trying to break down.”

Under the hood

Wilson says that Range Bio is taking a different approach to other proteomics companies.

“Most companies are focused on looking for the needle in the haystack – looking at all the potential biomarkers, figuring out which ones change – and I think that’s great, we need that,” he says. “But we’re not a discovery technology when it comes to proteomics. We’re focused on taking a subset of the proteome and looking at how it changes over time. We’re trying to discover the longitudinal dynamics of biomarkers we already know.”

Exactly how Range Bio does what it says it can do isn’t something the team is prepared to share much detail on at this stage.

“We can say that we’ve fundamentally re-engineered the way that proteins can be detected,” Maganzini says. “A lot of targeted proteomics technologies are still based on technology that was developed in the 1970s and are limited in terms of scalability. We’ve created a new detection modality from the ground up to meet the problem of scale. Let’s say you want to look at 10 to 100 proteins in a biomarker panel and you want to do that in millions of patient samples – that’s the problem we’re solving.”

Proteomics at scale

Ultimately, Range Bio sees itself as a provider of analytical tools – a platform that longevity companies, and others, can use to scale up proteomics testing in patients.

“For example, let’s say some researchers identify some biomarkers that are linked to aging, and they want to start a company based on that,” says Wilson. “Right now, it is actually very challenging to implement those measurements in the real world. We’re creating a platform that would allow them to do that rapidly and at scale – we’re talking potentially millions of patients.”

“When I think of how our technology can be implemented in longevity, it’s for companies that might not even exist yet. We’re building a platform for companies that will appear in the next five to 10 years.”

With its seed funding now in place, Wilson says that the main focus is on developing the technology.

“We have a lot of goals to accomplish, but the main focus is deep tech R&D right now,” he says. “We are solidly heads-down, building in the lab every day.”

Diagnostics is ‘broken’

The first logical commercial steps for Range Bio will likely be liquid biopsy companies and pharmacodynamics, although enabling precision health is the company’s ultimate goal.

“I think the way that we approach diagnostics in the clinic is broken,” says Wilson. “To establish a diagnostic reference today, you take a bunch of people that have a disease and a bunch of people that don’t. Then you do some measurements and say that people with the disease are in this range, and people who don’t are in this range. But people are so variable at the molecular level, that this kind of analysis isn’t fit for purpose.”

“If we can change that paradigm of comparing an individual to some reference population, and we can instead compare individual to individual over time, then that will completely change the paradigm of diagnostics, personalised health and even pharmacodynamics.”

“That that is our end game – we hope to build the technology to make it possible, both logistically and financially. And I think this also plays a huge role in making longevity research accessible.”