Biology in three dimensions
Over the past ten years genomics has moved out of the post-Human Genome, basic research environment, and is beginning to take centre stage in the world of translation. DNA, RNA, protein, all of these molecules are bound for the clinic in the form of new multiplexed diagnostic assays, and diagnostics developers are working hard to shape this new landscape and leverage new discoveries to benefit patients.
This drive for translation is one of the big themes of this year’s ASHG annual meeting, and to find out more about this sector we sat down with Jay Gerlach, Director of Product Management at NanoString Technologies. NanoString will be running a workshop at the meeting, showing how leading cancer research institutions are applying their 3D Biology platform to both translation, and to cancer research.
FLG: Can you tell us a bit more about NanoString, and on the 3D Biology technology?
JG: Sure. NanoString has made a name for itself in the translational research space with our nCounter Analysis System, a platform for digital counting of biomolecules – RNA, DNA, and more recently proteins. We’ve really made our mark in gene expression with hundreds of high-profile publications with top cancer researchers, and of course our FDA-approved Prosigna assay. Now we’re branching out on the research side of the business with the concept of 3D Biology, where not only are we looking at expression profiles, but we’re also looking at protein expression as well as single nucleotide variant (SNV) detection.
FLG: How do you find that your customers are applying your products?
JG: The nCounter System itself is a flexible platform available for research of all types and we have customers that span a huge variety of research areas. We’ve seen a lot of adoption in the cancer research community because the platform is highly compatible with formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue, which is a very important sample type for cancer researchers. We’ve seen a lot of application in that area, a huge proliferation of publications, and demonstrations of the capabilities of the platform by top cancer researchers around the world.
As a result, we have been able to set up a number of collaborations with pharmaceutical companies in the oncology and immuno-oncology space, really developing a range of expertise for translational genomics generally, and oncology more specifically.
FLG: Looking ahead to ASHG 2016, NanoString has a workshop on the agenda about ‘Accelerating Research with 3D Biology’. What can attendees expect from this workshop, and what would you like them to take away from meeting you?
JG: We’re going to be sharing a lot of information on new products in our solid tumour 3D biology suite. We will be launching a new solid tumour protein panel that really expands our protein analysis capabilities, with a panel that’s focussed on solid tumour biology. Secondly, we’re going to be releasing a lot of new details on our solid tumor single nucleotide variants (SNV) assay, which we made an early announcement about at AACR and now have a lot more demonstration data to share with the world at ASHG.
At ASHG, you’re going to see our solid tumour 3D profiling capability in a whole lot more detail than has been seen before. To date, we’ve been focussing in the immuno-oncology space with the earliest offerings for 3D Biology, and this really expands the capability out into the broader field of solid tumour profiling.
FLG: It sounds like an exciting time for you guys! Looking beyond this year’s ASHG, what are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing NanoString in the future?
JG: We’re very focussed on translating genomic data into actionable results and translational biology more generally. Now is the time where all of these discoveries that have been made over the last decade, and since the completion of the Human Genome Project, are starting to move out of basic research and move into late-stage translational work that will really benefit patients’ lives.
That’s where NanoString really comes to the fore. The ease of use of our nCounter System, the compatibility with archival tissue, all those factors come together to allow us to drive that translational process. We have a number of high profile collaborations now with top pharmaceutical companies, and going forward we expect to see more collaborations, more development of our own in vitro diagnostic pipeline, as well as more adoption by the research community and more new discoveries being made on the nCounter platform. This sets us up to continue filling the diagnostics pipeline in the years to come.
3D Biology really allows us to think about what is the most useful biomarker or combination of biomarkers that actually gives you the best precision when you are trying to answer a key question in biology or to inform a clinical decision point. The ability to combine DNA, RNA and protein together into a single assay will be a powerful addition to translational research and precision medicine.
FLG: Thank you for your time! Do you have anything else that you would like to share with our audience?
JG: What makes NanoString different from a lot of other companies is that we’re not only building the platform, but we’re really building the capabilities internally with our biostatistics and bioinformatics capabilities. We’re trying to create a solution that delivers results, that delivers actionable, interpretable information instead of just data. This is a really important area where we excel, and where we have built a lot of capability. The collaborations that we have built not only prove that but also continue to strengthen our capacity to address the challenges of modern precision medicine.
Attend NanoString Workshop at ASHG on 19th October 2016 from 1-2:30 pm at VCC East Building, Room 10
Accelerating research with 3D Biology™: Simultaneous Analysis of DNA, RNA, and Proteins Using Molecular Barcodes
NanoString is pioneering the field of 3D Biology to accelerate the rate of research and maximize the amount of information that can be generated from a given sample. 3D Biology is the ability to analyze combinations of DNA (detect SNVs and InDels), RNA (Gene Expression or Fusion transcript detection), and Protein (abundance and post-translational modifications) simultaneously on a NanoString instrument system. Leading institutions in cancer research are utilizing 3D Biology in their work and this workshop will highlight their early successes.
Utility of digital 3D-Biology (simultaneous detection of Gene Expression, Protein, and SNVs) in understanding the biology of cancer
Joseph Beechem, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at NanoString technologies
Simultaneous Detection of Lung Tumor Mutations and Fusion Transcript in NSCLC and immune profiling via Gene Expression
McGarry Houghton, MD, Associate Member, Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle WA
Highly Sensitive Detection of Cancer Driver Mutations in a variety of Clinical FFPE Samples
Jinho Lee, PhD, Research Scientist, Department of Systems Biology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston TX