Despite being the most prevalent genetic disease worldwide, sickle cell disease patients represent a highly underserved community. Until recently, very few therapies have been available to manage sickle cell disease, although recent medical advances have seen many new therapies enter clinical trials.
At INNOVHEM, we strive to improve the quality of life of these patients by revolutionizing the basic standard of patient care, while also working to accelerate the development of new therapies and cures for this disease!
The approach of INNOVHEM
Personalised medical care: By combining our panel of newly developed biomarkers with pre-existing standard-of-care biomarkers and state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, we are developing a medical tool that will allow physicians to personalize patient medical care, to avoid crises and allow sickle cell warriors to enjoy an improved quality of life.
Accelerate the development of new therapies: Working together with industry leaders and implementing our innovative biomarker panel analyses in pre-clinical and clinical trials, we can identify and accelerate the development of new therapies and cures for sickle cell disease, while simultaneously predicting long term outcome for novel treatments.
Personalized Care Using Our Diagnostic Tool:
At INNOVHEM, our primary mission is to improve the care of patients with sickle cell disease in order to help them achieve an improved quality of life. In order to accomplish this mission, we are developing a diagnostic tool that will be used by physicians to help monitor a patient's disease, and alert them when a crisis is approaching so that the treatment regimen can be adjusted accordingly to avoid the looming crisis. This tool will incorporate artificial intelligence, existing patient biomarkers already in use in clinics (LDH, ASAT, MCH etc.), and our novel biomarkers including single cell fetal hemoglobin quantification and markers of intravascular hemolysis.
The Novel Biomarkers:
Quantification of fetal hemoglobin per red blood cell
In sickle cell disease, if a certain proportion of a patient's red blood cells have an elevated HbF expression, above a particular threshold, these cells can be protected from sickling, thereby preventing the severe symptoms of the disease. It is therefore the distribution of HbF expression that is critical, rather than the total HbF percentage or the number of cells expressing HbF (F cells) (Steinberg et al., 2014).
It is thus critical that novel therapeutics whose mechanism of action is to upregulate of HbF levels, such as some gene therapies, are evaluated in terms of the HbF distributions achieved.
Using our precise, single-cell method of determining HbF content (in pg) per red blood cell, we can accurately quantify the HbF distribution in a patient’s red blood cells, thereby allowing us to assess and follow the efficacy of a therapy at the molecular level (Hebert et al., 2020). Similar tools that we are currently developing will allow us this same level of assessment in gene therapies that are based on other hemoglobins (such as the correction of HbS back to HbA).
A new method to quantify intra-vascular hemolysis
Excessive hemolysis induces oxidative and inflammatory syndromes and vascular damages in various organs, thus accurate biomarkers of intravascular hemolysis are required for a better evaluation of hemolytic disorders.
We have therefore developed a new, highly sensitive spectrophotometric method that allows us to directly and accurately measure and calculate several hemolysis biomarkers in plasma or serum including Hemoglobin in various forms (HbO2, HbCO, MetHb), Heme or Hemin bound to albumin or to hemopexin, total bilirubin and total hemopexin (Kiger et al. 2019).
These biomarkers allow us a snapshot into the pathophysiology of a patient, and also allow us to monitor the evolution of a patient’s disease/treatment efficiency. Furthermore, these biomarkers have other applications such as in the diagnosis and severity assessment for delayed hemolytic transfusion reactions (DHTRs).