From 2019 a rapid molecular test for COVID-19 to tools that can characterize the antibodies produced in the plasma of patients recovering from the disease, this year’s winners reflect the research community’s shared focus in a challenging year.
Now where we live its new challenge year 2021.
Even more than that, 2020 has shown that the scientific community, when faced with a shared problem, can rise to the challenge and come together to refocus, research, and innovate
1) AbCellera Celium
AbCellera’s high-throughput microfluidics and single-cell analysis tools to probe samples of COVID-19 patients, the company’s team had deciphered the genetic sequences encoding hundreds of antibodies that might treat the disease. Sifting through all of that data by hand was tedious, though, so the team fed it into Celium, a data visualization tool that intersects more than a million high-quality data points for those antibodies to reveal which ones might work best in patients as a potential therapy.
2) OXGENE TESSA
A central challenge to delivering gene therapies to patients’ cells is the cost of making adeno-associated virus (AAV).Batches of cultured human cells are transfected with multiple plasmids to induce them to make the AAV vectors containing a selected gene. But the plasmids are expensive to make, and the transfection process isn’t very efficient. By contrast, infection with adenoviruses naturally induces cells to activate replication of AAVs. The problem is, the adenoviruses also replicate themselves and contaminate the resulting AAV product. To get around this issue, OXGENE devised a genetic switch that shuts down an adenovirus’s activity halfway through its life cycle within a cell, so that it programs the cell to churn out AAV particles but not to make adenovirus.
3) GigaGen Surge
GigaGen’s Surge platform, which uses single-cell sequencing to “capture and recreate” libraries of antibodies from blood donors. To create these libraries, the company runs donors’ blood samples through the Surge platform to isolate individual antibody-producing B cells into microdroplets and extract the RNA that encodes the antibodies. GigaGen does not currently plan to sell Surge, but rather has been using the platform to develop treatments for cancers, immunodeficiency disorders, and, most recently, COVID-19.
4) IsoPlexis Single-Cell Intracellular Proteome
The Single-Cell Intracellular Proteome solution from IsoPlexis grew out of several labs at Caltech, all seeking better ways to monitor protein-protein interactions
in cancer cells with the goal of developing targeted treatments. With traditional methods such as Western blot, mass spectrometry, and flow cytometry, only a couple of protein types can be tracked at a given time. With Isoplexis’s system, launched in July, researchers can monitor 30 or more protein pathways, with results available on the same day.
5) Codex DNA BioXp™ 3250 System
Biotech firm Codex DNA released the BioXp™ 3250 system in August 2020 as a follow-up to BioXp™ 3200, released in 2014. The automated platform for on-demand DNA assembly and amplification allows researchers to synthesize genes and genomes faster than ever, with the potential to accelerate the development of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments, says Peter Duncan, director of product management at Codex DNA. The equipment can be used on cancer cells or a variety of infectious agents, including SARS-CoV-2.