The Latest on Biomarkers: Biomarker Commons

Biomarkers are becoming a major focus of pharmaceutical research and drug development, in part because they can be used as alternatives to clinical endpoints (e.g. how a patient feels, functions or survives). A “biomarker” is defined as a molecular signature found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that reflects a normal biologic process, pathogenic process or pharmacologic process to a therapeutic intervention. A biomarker can be used to measure the risk for a disease, the progress of a disease or how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition.

In the post-genomic age, the search for clinically useful biomarkers is a problem of computational and systems biology. Indeed, this challenge is one of the reasons that I left academia and accepted a position as a Computational Biologist at Covance’s Biomarker Center of Excellence. Using high-throughput genomics and/or proteomics methods, hundreds of biomarker candidates can be identified from a given experiment. I’ve also generated lists of biomarker candidates by data mining PubMed for gene- or protein-disease associations. However, these candidate markers aren’t “true biomarkers” until their clinical validity, analytical validity and clinical utility has been determined. Validation of candidate biomarkers is a time-consuming and not-always-accurate process because a standardized prioritization methodology doesn’t currently exist.

Biomarker Commons

I’ve found it particularly challenging to keep current with the latest news and developments on biomarkers. It’s been difficult to find consistent, high-quality information from any one source; there’s a lot of repeated and worthless information out there. And it’s only going to get worse — some experts predict that, within a few years, the amount of content on the Web will double every 72 hours!

A “commons” refers to a set of resources maintained in the public domain for the use and benefit of everyone. In the spirit of Proteome Commons, Pathway Commons and Neurocommons, my latest project is Biomarker Commons.

Biomarker Commons ( is a curated archive of news and research focused on biomarker discovery, development and use.

I’m using my knowledge and experience with the Web and search tools to find, organize and share the best and most relevant content on biomarkers. As I’ve strived to do with Highlight HEALTH, every news article on Biomarker Commons will include a link to its original source and every research article will link directly to PubMed.

If you’re interested in biomarkers, you can keep up with the latest news on biomarkers via the Biomarker Commons Biomarker News RSS feed. I’ve also setup a Twitter account @BiomarkerCmns to share the latest news on biomarkers.

Additionally, you can keep up with the latest studies on biomarkers via the Biomarker Commons Biomarker Research RSS feed. This feed polls PubMed every few hours for the latest in biomarker research. Additionally, thirty-seven therapeutic area research categories comprising five categories aggregate biomarker research from PubMed every six hours. RSS feeds are not currently available.

Walter Jessen is a digital strategist, writer, web developer and data scientist. You can typically find him behind the screen something with an internet connection.