By Scott Meacham
Lupus is chronic autoimmune condition with devastating effects. The disease is difficult to diagnose. Its course is unpredictable. There is no cure and few FDA-approved medications. Patients who have lupus live with its impact for the rest of their lives.
At times, the disease flares up and gets worse; in remission, symptoms get better or temporarily disappear. Periods of intense lupus symptoms, known as disease flares or flare-ups, can seem to appear at random. These episodes may start with fatigue and fever, joint pain, headaches, confusion and memory loss. They often progress to kidney damage and inflammation throughout the body, as the lupus patient’s immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells
A patient with lupus doesn’t know when a flare is going to occur, so in addition to the physical toll, it is a weighty mental burden, never knowing when or where the pain will start.
Progentec Diagnostics, with licensed technology from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), is developing new solutions to bring greater consistency to the lives of people with lupus.
“The patient comes first,” said Mohan Purushothaman, Ph.D., President, and CEO of Progentec. “Our platform is carefully crafted to help people with lupus at every step of the patient journey. From identification and diagnosis to symptom and medication management, Progentec offers people with lupus the right tool at the right moment to take charge of their health.”
Progentec’s aim to radically improve lupus care starts with bringing predictability to the natural cycles of the disease. A one-of-its-kind blood biomarker test can alert patients and their rheumatologists to the risk of a flare three months in the future. Armed with this knowledge, patients and clinicians can take active steps to reduce the severity of the flare, preserving organs and limiting the impact of lupus.
In addition to the flare prediction test, Progentec is also developing biomarker tests for the diagnosis of lupus and the measurement of disease activity levels. Today, about one-third of people report seeing more than six doctors before being diagnosed. Progentec is working with the Mayo Clinic and has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health for the development of lab tests to reduce the time it takes to get a patient on the right treatment plan.
Progentec’s focus on the patient doesn’t stop with innovative laboratory testing. The company also offers powerful digital tools that support the day-to-day challenges of lupus. The LupusCorner platform, which is used by nearly 65,000 people, provides free access to symptom and medication management tools, health literacy information, and a community forum. All designed for the smartphone, LupusCorner makes it easy to track symptoms, identify personal lupus triggers, and share information with a clinician.
The pharmaceutical industry is showing some interest in creating new products for lupus, but in the interim, lupus patients want to go to work, raise their families, and contribute to their communities. They want to live their lives.
Progentec is redefining the management of chronic conditions with laboratory tests and tools to help people with lupus do just that. Lupus can interfere with the lives of patients in many ways. Now patients have multiple ways to fight back.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org