From Issue 5 of Front Line Genomics magazine, we chat to Co-Founder and CSO of AboGen Stephen Andrews to find out how AboGen kits are being used throughout research.

Several research groups are currently using AboGen kits across a variety of projects: measuring changes in RNA expression and DNA methylation in t-cells in cancer; analysing extra-cellular protein expression in cancer and autism; and a multitude of genetic experiments. So how have AboGen made life easier for researchers?

Fed up of having to drop everything and rush to the lab every time you have a blood sample to process? The team at AboGen has developed a much easier way to help you get more samples to work with. Co-Founder, and CSO, Stephen Andrews explains…

FLG: How did AboGen get started?

SA: I came across the paper “Cell Phenotyping in saliva of individuals under psychological stress” by Dos-Santos et al. which showed the presence and abundance of specific blood cells in saliva. These blood cells were the exact cells all my colleagues were working so hard to extract from blood. That was when inspiration struck me: I should develop a method to extract blood cells from saliva, and develop a solution to preserve all the vast components of saliva for months. In 2012 I partnered with Youssef Biadillah, a biomedical engineer, who developed the saliva sample collection device, and thus AboGen was born.

FLG: What are the advantages of your technology over blood and other saliva technologies on the market?

SA: Current oral fluid collection kits on the market today are only appropriate for genetic testing due to the mix of DNA they collect. These kits do not allow for the isolation of blood cells, circulating tumor cells (CTCs), or numerous other extracellular proteins and factors. Our kit is the only one on the market that allows for researcher and diagnostic companies to capitalize on the true robustness of saliva, by rendering all the diverse components of saliva to be preserved and accessible.

FLG: What are some of the practical advantages of saliva collection?

SA: There are cases where blood is not the ideal medium for testing. A perfect example of which are Autistic children. These children hate having their blood drawn, and this often presents a tremendously challenging situation for both parents and healthcare professionals. Additionally, when a patient requires continuous, repeat monitoring over long time periods, drawing blood becomes expensive, inconvenient and difficult; whereas saliva collection offers a far simpler and more economical solution for patient monitoring.

FLG: What are people using the kit for at the moment?

SA: The first study using our kits measured the changes in lymphocyte numbers during acute exercise resistance in varying climates all via oral fluid. This study is currently being submitted for publication by Dr. L. Carlson from the University of New England.

FLG: Various research groups are currently using AboGen kits across a variety of projects: changes in RNA expression and DNA methylation in T-cells in cancer; extracellular protein expression in cancer and autism; and genetic experiments. At the moment the kit is only available for research purposes only. As the company continues to grow, do you have any plans to introduce the kit for clinical purposes?

SA: We are now leveraging our technology to develop oral fluid direct-to-consumer (DTC) laboratory diagnostics. We are very excited about tackling diseases with current bloodbased diagnostics, and those that currently lack diagnostics (such as Autism). We are currently developing a DTC laboratory diagnostic for COPD as well as exploring partnerships for the development of numerous other diagnostics; all of which would utilize our oral fluid collection, preservation, and isolation technology.

FLG: What’s the next step for AboGen? Are you going to maintain focus on the fluid collection kit, or are you already thinking about developing additional products?

SA: We are focusing on supplying the research market while simultaneously leveraging our technology to develop DTC diagnostics. We believe we have created a core technology that has the potential to disrupt the diagnostic market and move the healthcare paradigm away from blood-based samples, requiring hospital visits, with high direct and indirect costs. Our goal is to extend the reach of medical diagnostics by developing important, easy to use point-of-care diagnostics for diseases that are underserved and there is urgent need. AboGen’s ultimate goal is to provide people with the diagnostic means and diagnostic tests that will allow for earlier treatments, better global health and greater peace of mind.