NIH study finds blood biomarker for traumatic brain injury using sensitive analyzer

Quanterix's Simoa device--Courtesy of Quanterix

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the concentration of tau protein in the bloodstream is correlated with traumatic brain injury, after assessing nearly 100 U.S. soldiers who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The researchers, led by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research, compared tau concentrations in blood plasma in 70 patients with self-reported TBI to a control group consisting of 28 subjects. Those with TBI had a significantly higher level of tau, as did those soldiers who had three or more related traumatic brain injuries, compared those with fewer injuries.

The article says one-third of soldiers deployed sustain at least one traumatic brain injury. TBI is associated post-concussive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and dementia.

Lexington, MA-based Quanterix's Simoa blood biomarker analyzer was used to detect and quantify the tau protein biomarkers. The company says the diagnostic device achieves its sensitivity by capturing each bead in its own sealed microwell.

Beads whose antibodies are linked to the target generate fluorophores, which can be measured at low concentrations using conventional fluorescence imaging. Simoa has 30 assays for biomarkers in areas such as cardiac care, oncology and neuroscience.

"When the brain experiences any kind of trauma, whether caused by a hit on the sidelines at a sporting event or someone impacted during combat while serving in the military, minuscule quantities of protein enter the blood stream. Our technology is the only one sensitive enough to measure these proteins in a way that no one thought possible," said Quanterix CEO Kevin Hrusovsky, in a statement. "This is one of the many studies in which Simoa is being used to further understand and quantify the long term effects of TBI and we are pleased to be working with NINR to continue our mission to understand what is going on in the human body and, in turn, improve the quality of care."

Quanterix is expecting big sales from Simoa in the years ahead, and eyeing an IPO next year. The device is projected to bring in $150 million in revenue within 5 years. To meet increased demand, the company is planning to beef up its workforce, bringing the roster at its Lexington office from 75 to a couple hundred employees.

Simoa is being deployed in the NFL and GE's ($GE) $60 million Head Health Initiative to study neurology. Quanterix received $500,000 as a winner of one of the initiative's research challenges.

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