Q&A with Roy Smythe of SomaLogic: Driving clinical discovery

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AVIA Marketplace is the leading online resource for accurate, unbiased information about digital health companies and solutions. Our goal: To empower hospitals and health systems with the information they need to match with vendors who can meet their unique needs. We asked the top companies in the precision medicine space about their solutions and what they think the future of digital health looks like. No sponsored content or advertorials—just transparency and insights that decision-makers can use. 

Since its founding in 2000, the Colorado-based SomaLogic has emerged as a global leader in the field of proteomics. With SomaSignal, SomaLogic’s assessment solution for clinical and research use, providers can choose from 21 tests to assess health risks, including cardiovascular risks, kidney prognosis, and past or current tobacco exposure. SomaLogic’s groundbreaking proteomic technology platform, SomaScan Assay, analyzes as many as 7,000 proteins in a single 55 µL sample, with options for automated custom panels or disease-specific panels.

CEO Roy Smythe, M.D., has enjoyed a varied career as a surgeon, biomedical scientist, academician, health system administrator and healthcare business entrepreneur. Previously, Dr. Smythe served as Global Chief Medical Officer for Strategy and Partnership at Royal Philips and Chief Medical Officer at Valence Health and AVIA. Dr. Smythe received his undergraduate degree in biology from Baylor University and his medical degree from Texas A&M University, and trained in general surgery, surgical oncology, and thoracic surgery in addition to completing a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular therapeutics.

Q: How does your company differentiate from other precision medicine solution vendors?

A: With decades of pioneering proteomics expertise, SomaLogic delivers a comprehensive protein detection technology to expose early biologic signs that a patient may be headed for a severe health event, revealing whether existing treatments are adequately reducing risk or if adaptations are needed.  Because proteins are constantly changing, they provide better and more actionable insights on patient health risks and propensity for disease.

Unlike SomaLogic solutions, most current tools are not prognostic in nature and can’t be used to determine future health risk–they’re mostly used to confirm whether a person has elevated risk. These approaches are also not responsive to change over time, which makes it difficult to understand if existing treatments are effective and to track disease trajectory.

Q: What are some of the biggest changes your company has seen around how health systems are approaching precision medicine since 2020?

A: Precision medicine originally took hold in oncology, but the medical community is recognizing that precision medical tools are also needed to address the leading cause of death in the U.S., which is cardiovascular disease. Because lifestyle and environmental factors are so important, it was necessary to look beyond just genomics for a precision medicine approach to cardiovascular disease.

Outside of select use cases, the use of genomics requires substantial genetic counseling infrastructure to help patients and clinicians interpret hereditary risk and determine appropriate treatment options. Proteomic-based tests are more actionable because they demonstrate “real-time” risk that considers hereditary predisposition and the impact of patient behaviors and environment. As a result, clinicians are better informed to tailor and adapt treatment plans and have greater ability to measure treatment efficacy through repeat testing.

Q: What does an ideal client look like? How are health systems best organized for success in precision medicine?

A: Our ideal client is seeking to expand and differentiate preventative patient care in the following ways:

  • Executive health and concierge programs with patients who want more information about their cardiometabolic health and risks.
  • A commitment to improving management of patients with known cardiovascular risk factors, including optimized referrals to cardiology and helping clinicians determine which patients will most benefit from upgraded therapies.
  • Embrace of Precision Medicine 2.0, which expands beyond oncology and offers more actionable benefits for patients and health systems–the right patient receiving the right care at the right time.
  • A robust lifestyle medicine program offering wellness and longevity-based services to retain patients who are engaged in their own health.

Health systems seeking to organize for success in precision medicine should evaluate new ways to improve outcomes and lower costs for populations in value-based care programs. A couple of examples include: 

  • Optimal management of rising and high-risk patients for providers taking on risk and total cost of care for a patient population.
  • A commitment to implementing precision medicine solutions today that will position the health system to take downside risk in the future.
Q: What impact have you seen from your clients who have prioritized precision medicine?

A: Providers have reported that patients at high risk of cardiovascular events have greater motivation to adhere to recommended therapies and behavior changes when they see personalized results through proteomic tests. Our provider partners have also reported more meaningful conversations about the most important lifestyle changes to make to reduce risk, based on the comprehensive picture of metabolic health status. Care teams are also equipped to evaluate treatment efficacy and tailor the right combination of prescription adherence, diet, and exercise changes based on the results that they see.

Q: What major functional enhancements and/or product investments are you making in the near term to keep up with the evolution of precision medicine?

A: SomaLogic continues to focus on new test research and development in-house, as well as through other collaborators who leverage our platform and services to develop new diagnostics. We anticipate larger scale deployment of our tests both in the near term and after receiving broad reimbursement. SomaLogic is also investing in sample collection and integrated electronic ordering capabilities to streamline clinical workflows. On top of that, we’re working to expand the SomaScan assay from 7000 proteins to 10,000, and ultimately expand the number of analytes to support clinical discovery.

Q: How is your company partnering with clients as reimbursements and use cases shift?

A: We work with health systems to understand their unique clinical workflows and identify where proteomic testing can create the greatest impact for their unique populations and programs. For some health systems, proteomic testing can be part of a larger care transformation effort to position the health system to take on risk for total cost of care.

We also keep close tabs on new lifestyle and pharmaceutical interventions as they come to market so that we can partner with health systems to use proteomic testing to identify the populations at highest risk and who can benefit most from the new intervention. For high-cost newly approved drugs, this may provide some financial benefit as well. If we clearly demonstrate that our proteomic test drives quality and cost improvement, we can make the case for reimbursement.

Q: What are the biggest opportunities health systems should be thinking about this coming year when it comes to precision medicine?

A: We urge health systems to look beyond just oncology and rare diseases and consider ways to deploy precision medicine into population health initiatives and standard clinical practice.

Q: How do you see precision medicine evolving in 2023 and beyond?

A: In the future, we anticipate that other “omics” beyond just genomics will be introduced into the mainstream, and that precision medicine will become more common in population health and primary care initiatives. Patients demand for additional information about their health status and treatment effectiveness will also rise.

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