​​Ulf Landegren, Simon Fredriksson and team​

​​Sensitive and specific protein detection assays​

Technical field
​Formerly Olink AB​
​​The Proximity Extension Assay (PEA), which allows for the sensitive detection of proteins in cells and link proteins to DNA strands providing detectable data, was created by Ulf Landegren and Simon Fredriksson. From early disease screening to individualised treatment plans, PEA has the potential to vastly improve patient outcomes in multiple areas of medicine.​

Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins and their interactions, functions and structures in the body. For inventors Ulf Landegren and Simon Fredriksson, proteomics could be the key to identifying certain health risk factors more effectively than genomics.

Through the duo’s company Olink, they developed PEA as a tool for measuring levels of large numbers of proteins in blood samples. PEA uses pairs of antibodies with complementary DNA sequences attached. When the antibodies bind their target proteins, the DNA strands form unique, easily detectable DNA sequence tags that can be recorded in high-throughput using techniques borrowed from genomics.

PEA’s ability to identify proteins as diagnostic markers could be transformative for cancer research, drug discovery, and early detection of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria which cause millions of deaths annually. It’s hoped these tools can identify the risk of organ transplant rejection and predict long-term disability outcomes for degenerative diseases. Fredriksson draws the analogy, “If your car breaks down you wouldn’t call Volvo to ask for the blueprint…which is the equivalent of genomics. Instead it is much more powerful to open the hood of the car and inspect the functional components directly, which corresponds to what human proteomics can do.”

Tapping into the potential of proteomics 

Ulf Landegren and Simon Fredriksson’s foundational work has formed the bedrock of Olink’s success. After Landegren mentored Fredriksson, the two later founded Olink AB, which became Olink Proteomics. With a robust IP portfolio that includes 38 patent families and as a valuable contributor to the global affinity proteomics market, Olink is being acquired by biotechnology giant Thermo Fisher for EUR 2.84 billion in 2023. 

Fredriksson is an entrepreneur who has founded several successful companies over the course of his career. He is currently a partner at early-stage life science investor Colibri Ventures and CEO at Pixelgen Technologies. Landegren leads a respected academic career as a Senior Professor at Uppsala University, promoting industrial application of cutting-edge molecular technologies and spinning out companies.

On the potential of Proteomics, Landegren explains: “Genetics is highly predictive, but conversely, it's not very dynamic and doesn't allow you to follow the course of disease. Proteins, by contrast, can often reveal the inception and variable course of disease. You may be able to pick up a protein signal before the patient even develops symptoms.” 


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