Diagnostics, Materials & Systems
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A new dawn

Zora Biosciences is a service provider for the pharmaceuticals industry and a diagnostics discovery company, with a particular focus on metabolomic analyses. It is the only specialist in this field in the Nordic region, and one of only around 10 worldwide.
Zora Biosciences Oy

Zora studies all the small molecules, or metabolites, in a given organism using highly sophisticated laboratory methods, such as mass spectrometry, coupled to a battery of bioinformatic tools – to provide a highly detailed overview of the multitude of factors influencing a biological system at a particular point in time.

The resulting metabolomic profiles highlight a variety of disease-related issues and the effect of possible drug intervention, as well as the impact that people’s dietary habits, exercise regimes, and any infectious organisms in their bodies may have.

Compared to genomic testing, which concentrates on one or several genes to predict the risk for certain afflictions and is unable to factor in environmental influences, metabolomic analyses provide what is virtually an online read-out of a complete biological system.

Unique competence

Metabolomic analyses can benefit a number of areas, most notably pharmaceutical development. Metabolomic screening can help a drug company save on costs and shorten the time to market for new drugs, for example, through the use of novel biomarkers.

This approach can simplify the elimination of toxic drug candidates, generate new efficacy and safety markers for drug development work, identify drug responder groups and subpopulations sensitive to a drug, and provide new insights on the mechanisms that make a drug work.

Zora offers its customers a best-in-class selection of metabolomic tools and systems, particularly in the area of lipidomics, a unique Zora competence. This represents an importance resource, as lipid molecules play a key role in many therapeutic areas, such as cardiovascular disease, diseases of the central nervous system, diabetes, and obesity.

Metabolomics holds great promise not only in drug development, but also for disease diagnostics and more targeted and personalised medication – and Zora Biosciences is one of the few companies anywhere specialising in the field.

Safer therapy for cardiovascular patients

A team made up of researchers from Zora and Tampere University Hospital recently carried out a comprehensive metabolomic analysis on a group of patients that had received intensive statin treatment. While statins are an effective cholesterol-lowering protocol for people at high risk of cardiovascular complications, they can induce muscle toxicity at high doses and, in rare cases, contribute to fatal rhabdomyolysis.

The study showed that high-dose statin treatment generates a unique lipid profile associated with metabolic changes in skeletal muscle; and the individual constituents of the profile can be used as biomarker candidates for monitoring statin safety.

Zora is now developing a test that will make it possible to monitor patients on statin therapy safely and effectively – and provide a diagnostic tool capable of alerting physicians to concerns regarding the adverse effects of statin treatment.

> Reini Hurme
(Published in HighTech Finland 2008)