Interview with Dr. Chase Spurlock, Ph.D., Executive Officer at IQuity, Inc

IQuity is working to further develop RNA technologies that can be used to diagnose and treat Multiple Sclerosis. IQuity hopes to develop a ‘disease activity test’, which would help physicians determine when a patient is likely to relapse so that treatments can be timed for best effect. What is the background for IQuity? What are its goals and mission?

Response: IQuity, Inc. is a biotechnology company that focuses on the research and development of innovative specialty diagnostic technology, specifically for autoimmune diseases. Our research has shown that autoimmune patients have distinct RNA expression patterns in their blood, and we have figured out how to leverage machine learning methods to analyze these RNA expression patterns and test for the presence of diseases like multiple sclerosis, IBS/IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis) and fibromyalgia. We collected patient samples from around the globe to match their RNA profiles against healthy and sick patient profiles we identified through our previous research. These tests led to the development of IQIsolate, our technology that informs the suite of tests which, when used even at the earliest onset of symptoms, can give providers information to rule in or rule out a suspected autoimmune disease with more than 90% accuracy.

Our mission is to relentlessly pursue innovation in specialized diagnostic and analytic technology, identifying complicated autoimmune and autoimmune-related diseases at the earliest signs of symptoms. We strive to enable providers to diagnose early and treat sooner in the disease progression to improve long-term outcomes, lower the overall cost of lifelong autoimmune diseases and minimize the uncertainty and fear patients experience during prolonged diagnosis periods. Can you tell us a little about RNA and how it interacts with DNA and the human genome?

Response: Simply put, DNA makes RNA and RNA makes protein. RNA carries out the instructions found in our DNA. RNA is a highly dynamic molecule. The majority of our genome is transcribed into RNA, meaning there is a great deal of molecular conversation going on within the cells of the human body.

Traditionally researchers were taught to focus solely on the regions of our genetic code that made protein; the rest was considered “junk DNA.” There are regions of the genome that give rise to RNAs but these RNAs do not produce protein. A particular class of RNA, long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), are powerful regulators of RNA activity and play important roles in the biology of human health and disease. These RNAs have an influence on proteins in spite of their inability to make the protein. Certain classes of RNAs can turn genes on and off, regulating what we call gene expression. The turning on or off of these expression patterns can serve as an indicator of the presence or absence of disease.

Changes in DNA have been studied and documented for decades. The presence of changes in DNA, however, does not necessarily result in the development of disease. A DNA test, for example, might indicate that a patient is at high risk for an autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or MS, but they may never develop the condition. Thus, methods that rely on measurements of DNA are limited in their ability to reliably forecast active disease. RNA testing reveals more information about the disease processes that are at work in the cells and tissues of the body.

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