Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) has joined an elite group of research centres around the world that are certified to use a powerful new research tool for investigating the complex roles of proteins in human disease.

The technology, provided by Swedish bioscience company Olink, allows researchers to analyse vast numbers of different proteins in one go as they hunt for so-called ‘biomarkers’ of disease – particular proteins or combinations of proteins found in samples of blood, saliva or other tissue that indicate health issues. Identifying these ‘biomarker’ proteins improves the researcher’s understanding of how a range of diseases function, develop new diagnostic tools to catch diseases earlier, create personalised treatment plans, improve the accuracy of prognosis, and – crucially – facilitate the design of new drugs that target the proteins that cause disease.

The study of all identifiable proteins as a whole – also known as proteomics – is regarded as one of the most promising fields of biomedical research for the development of new treatments for an almost limitless range of diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and various forms of cancer. Including the new proteomics platform now established at WCM-Q, there are just 12 certified Olink service providers in the world – three in the US and eight in Europe.

OlinkDr Frank Schmidt, Director of the Proteomics Core at WCM-Q said that the technology is extremely powerful and gives wonderful new capabilities for analysing proteins that cause disease.

Qatar is the first country outside of the US and Europe to gain certification as an Olink service provider, so this establishes Qatar and WCM-Q as regional and global leaders in the field of proteomics research.’

The Olink platform gives researchers the ability to conduct ‘multiplexed’ protein analyses – meaning they can simultaneously observe multiple proteins involved in complex relationships with one another, giving greater insight into how these interactions give rise to disease. This technology is also described as ‘high-throughput’ capable, meaning researchers can perform a very large number of tests in a short time-frame.

WCM-Q’s Research Program is already a regional centre of excellence for research in a variety of areas and is endowed with state-of-the-art equipment and staffed by some of the world’s leading scientists in their fields. The Olink technology enhances WCM-Q’s capacity to drive research forward and improve understanding of many debilitating diseases. This augments pre-existing core facilities at WCM-Q that provide technical and instrumental support in several areas, including genomics, biostatistics, bioinformatics, metabolomics (study of the metabolism), and cellular imaging.

WCM-Q Olink certifiedWCM-Q Instrumentation Supervisor Dr Rudolf Engelke said the new platform greatly expands their analytical portfolio and gives them the ability to understand how proteins are connected to different diseases like diabetes, which is a key concern in the Gulf region.

We are extremely excited about the research we are now able to conduct here and the contributions we will be able to make, hopefully leading to improved diagnostic and treatment outcomes for patients in the future.’

The technology also means WCM-Q will be able to conduct cross-disciplinary research by comparing data from proteomics studies with those of genomics and metabolomics.

Dr Karsten Suhre, Director of the Bioinformatics Core and Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at WCM-Q said that with the Olink platform, they’ve added yet another cornerstone to their broad analytical capabilities to investigate complex diseases on a molecular level.

Dr Khaled Machaca, WCM-Q Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Physiology and Biophysics said they are excited about the expansion of their core capabilities with the addition of the Olink platforms, especially as this service – like all of their core services is available to all national stakeholders in Qatar.

For updates and more information about WCM-Q, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu.