About Metabolomic Tricorder project

Imagine if you could determine if you might have type II diabetes 15 years before it developed. What would you do? What if you as an expectant mother 4 months into your pregnancy found out you would develop pre-eclempsia in 2 months. What would you do? Most of us would try to change our diet, our lifestyle or our exercise habits to prevent these diseases. Certainly most of us would also like to know (regularly) if these changes are having an effect or making a difference. Both of these diseases are examples of conditions that can be predicted with high reliability using metabolomic tests. Unfortunately these metabolomic tests aren't in the clinic.

This project is concerned with bringing metabolomics out of the lab and into the clinic. It will produce two deliverables: 1) non-portable macro-metabolomic system(s) for high throughput clinical lab testing and 2) portable micro-metabolomic system (Tricorder) for personalized or companion diagnostic testing. Each system will be capable of quantitatively and simultaneously measuring 30 medically important metabolites. These systems will be designed to work for ~50 common, hard-to-diagnose or difficult-to-predict human diseases. These include diabetes, atherosclerosis, stroke, preeclampsia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, hypertension, Parkinson's disease, kidney failure, cardiac failure and many cancers. The diseases targeted by the proposed kits/devices afflict >30% of the population and cost the healthcare system >$30 billion/yr to treat, monitor or prevent. The systems we will develop will reduce the cost of testing these 30 compounds by a factor of 50-200 and enable widespread population testing and monitoring.

The metabolomic Tricorder will address personalized human health as the proposed devices/kits/systems will enable the inexpensive (and frequent) testing of an individual's disease risk or disease status for a wide range of conditions. In other words, the deliverables are companion diagnostic devices. We have deliberately selected metabolite sensing and targeted diseases that have some underlying metabolic basis because metabolite levels can be easily measured (through the devices we are proposing) and easily altered through diet, lifestyle changes or already-existing drugs. This is important because personalized medicine isn't just about diagnosing or predicting disease, it is also about empowering people to treat or prevent disease using therapies already at hand. Indeed, what is the use of companion diagnostics or predictive medicine if there is nothing you can do to fix the condition?