AE Alliance is proud to partner with EUROIMMUN again on the AEA Family Day. Just like last year, EUROIMMUN will be handing out Service Awards for a patient/caregiver and doctor/researcher that had a significant impact on the lives of those affected with AE. EUROIMMUN, whose autoantibody testing panels help patients get an accurate diagnosis, is committed to discovering new autoantibodies that drive AE. Given that roughly half of AE patients have a diagnosis of seronegative AE, EUROIMMUN’S ongoing research into autoantibody discovery is critical.
Q&A with Iswariya Venkataraman, PhD – Associate Director, Scientific Affairs, EUROIMMUN US
Tell us more about EUROIMMUN?
EUROIMMUN is a medical diagnostics company founded in 1987 in Lübeck, Germany. In 2018, PerkinElmer, Inc., a U.S.-based life sciences company, became the sole shareholder of EUROIMMUN. Since its inception, EUROIMMUN has been a heavily scientifically focused company aiming at developing state-of-the-art solutions for the detection and diagnosis of various niche medical conditions. One such key portfolio includes the detection and diagnosis of autoimmune neurology conditions.
Over the last 20 years, interest has grown regarding the discovery of novel autoantibodies associated with autoimmune-mediated neurological diseases. At EUROIMMUN, our goal has been to listen to the science and respond with solutions for the detection of autoantibodies against neuronal antigens. A differential diagnosis is critical in the field of neurological disorders, as diseases can take different clinical courses and require distinct therapies. Autoimmune neurological disorders can often mimic psychiatric conditions or neurodegenerative disorders. Therefore, EUROIMMUN offers a vast portfolio of diagnostic tools for the fast and reliable identification of autoantibodies against a range of key antigens in the brain. We have the ability to multiplex (meaning simultaneously detect) various autoantibodies using a small volume of a patient sample through the BIOCHIP technology.
In addition to developing suitable diagnostic solutions, the Institute for Experimental Immunology, founded in 2005 within EUROIMMUN, supports the discovery of novel autoantibodies in autoimmune neurology. EUROIMMUN has a successful track record in identifying novel autoantigens in syndromes affecting the central nervous system. For this purpose, we incubate patient sera on brain tissue cryosections using indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA). If an IFA pattern cannot be monospecifically confirmed, these patterns were characterized as “unknown fluorescence objects”; short: “UFOs.” These samples undergo further downstream processing until the novel target antigen can be identified by Mass Spectrometry. This institution has discovered over 25 antigens in the field of autoimmune neurology. Some well-known antigens include ITPR1, ARGHAP26, neurochondrin, etc., in cerebellar ataxia.
How is EUROIMMUN making a difference in the lives of those affected by AE?
EUROIMMUN aids in accurate and accelerated diagnosis of AE as well as contributes to the discovery of novel autoantibodies, which is crucial in this niche field. EUROIMMUN is a market leader for AE diagnostics. We provide labs with the necessary tools to deliver patients with the answers they need when needed most.
EUROIMMUN offers the ability to detect a range of key AE-associated autoantibodies through our exclusive BIOCHIP technology. Several major US laboratories currently utilize our products for the diagnosis of AE. We aim to educate and create awareness about the diagnosis of autoimmune neurological diseases to better support patients and their families through webinars and other educational training.
What is your role at EUROIMMUN?
I am Dr. Iswariya Venkataraman (Ishu Venkat), and I am responsible for the Scientific Affairs team at EUROIMMUN US. I hold a Ph.D. in the field of neuroscience for identifying novel autoantigens in autoimmune hyper-excitability disorders. I am designated as an inventor and hold a patent for identification of a methodology for isolating an autoantibody binding to a polypeptide selected from the superfamily of proteins called “Soluble NSF Attachment Protein Receptor” (SNARE) in patients with selected autoimmune neurological disorders. Due to my knowledge in the discovery of novel autoantibodies in autoimmune neurological conditions, I interact with several Key Opinion Leaders in this field to build scientific credibility for our products in the United States.
Our team also aims to educate clinicians and scientists globally and create awareness of this niche neurological condition. Our mission is to accelerate the diagnosis of AE through reliable and robust technologies. Additionally, we also focus on bridging the gap between bench to bedside by accelerating the development of new products to detect various novel neuronal antigens. In summary, we hope to reduce misdiagnosis and improve the prognosis of patients with AE.
You are focusing on educating doctors on AE and organized a webinar series earlier this year. Can you tell us a little bit more about this? How many doctors/researchers attended, and why is it important to you to educate doctors?
Although we provide diagnostic solutions that have helped many patients worldwide, we knew there was still more we can do to educate our network. This led us to launch EUROIMMUN Academy to educate physicians, laboratorians, and patients on different disease states in our portfolio. This effort started with our Neurology Webinar Series, where we discussed the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and real case examples of AE and other neurological disorders. The Neurology Webinar Series had over 3000 registrants worldwide and over 1100 attendees on both AE-focused episodes.
These attendees ranged from physicians to laboratorians to caregivers and patients. In January 2021, Dr. Amanda Piquet, Assistant Professor and Director of the Autoimmune Neurology program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine joined the webinar to discuss several adult and pediatric case studies and illuminated the different clinical presentations of AE. Additionally, Dr. Stanley Naides, a renowned rheumatologist and Medical Consultant for EUROIMMUN, highlighted the available technologies for diagnosing AE. In February 2021, Dr. Robert Kadish, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Utah in the Division of Neuroimmunology, discussed the clinical evaluation of AE while highlighting unique antibody-positive and seronegative cases seen in practice.
Furthermore, Dr. Naides returned to provide details on how state-of-the-art technologies can be used to efficiently and accurately identify novel autoantibodies. We believe that the education of healthcare providers is a necessary step in ensuring proper patient care. It is important for physicians to be aware of what diagnostic tests are available and also to understand the importance of accurate and differential diagnosis. With different neurological disorders requiring distinct therapies, a conclusive diagnosis is critical for guaranteeing a patient receives the most suitable treatment possible.
Thank you Ishu, and the team at EUROIMMUN, for your dedication to changing the lives of those affected by autoimmune encephalitis.
What: The Virtual AEA Family Day
When: Saturday, September 18, 11 – 5 PM EST
Register here in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
The Virtual AEA Family Day is sponsored by Euroimmun