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World-first technology from biomodal enables reading of genetic and epigenetic information using existing sequencers





World-first technology from biomodal that promises to unleash the power of epigenetics using any sequencer has been commercially launched.

The duet multiomics solution is the first single-base-resolution sequencing technology that enables the simultaneous phased reading of genetic and epigenetic information in a single sample, with one workflow, using existing sequencing machines.

biomodal CEO Peter Fromen. Picture: Kevin Meynell
biomodal CEO Peter Fromen. Picture: Kevin Meynell

The Chesterford Research Park-based company, formerly known as Cambridge Epigenetix, says it provides more epigenetic information from a single low input DNA library without complex, resource intensive bioinformatics or harsh chemical treatment.

Epigenetics is concerned with changes in cell function that are not caused by alterations in DNA sequences, such as DNA methylation - the addition of a methyl group that can prevent some genes from being expressed.

Its study, alongside genetics, provides a more complete picture of the information stored in genomes.

Peter Fromen, biomodal CEO, said: “Our novel solution removes the technical barriers that have previously held back our broader understanding of epigenetics. Now, our customers can accelerate their research with a more comprehensive view of regulatory function across the genome, through the interplay of genetics and epigenetics at read level.

“We believe this opens a new era of discovery and utility within next-generation sequencing by capturing additional biological modalities to reveal the complexity and dynamism of the human genome.”

The company was founded by one of the original fathers of modern sequencing, Prof Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, with Bobby Yerramilli‑Rao in 2012 and a Series D round in November 2021 of $88million (£64.6m) took its fundraising to date to $146m.

Biomodal says its hardware-agnostic product, the subject of a recent publication in Nature Biotechnology, will empower research into multiple disease areas, including cancer, neurodegenerative disease, ageing, cell biology and population genetics.

It is hoped it could propel advances in the use of liquid biopsy in oncology, which is promising to provide new minimally invasive approaches for the early detection of cancer and minimal residual disease monitoring by examining circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in blood.

Using cell-free DNA via liquid biopsy, duet multiomics is able to detect powerful genetic and methylation biomarkers simultaneously in an individual’s blood.

Aurel Negrea, a staff scientist at biomodal. Picture: Keith Heppell
Aurel Negrea, a staff scientist at biomodal. Picture: Keith Heppell

Prof Sarah-Jane Dawson, clinician-scientist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, said: “duet multiomics solution +modC helps to unlock the full potential of liquid biopsies by breaking down significant barriers in our biomarker discovery research, which relies on gaining accurate, comprehensive genetic and epigenetic data from our valuable samples.

“We gain new insight when measuring the interaction of genetics and epigenetics on the same read, allowing us to better understand the biology behind disease development and treatment responses. We look forward to progressing our research with this technology

and affecting a paradigm shift in the way that cancer can be treated and monitored in the clinic.”

+modC is the first duet multiomics solution and enables the sequencing of all canonical bases of DNA (A,C,G,T), plus modified cytosine via a single, low input sample (10ng).

Designed as an accessible, plug-and-play software solution, it combines open source and proprietary tools for an analysis pipeline that incorporates error suppression, yielding high quality data with base calls in excess of Q40.

Sample-level information is then available for interpretation and insights through biomodal’s proprietary analytics modules.

It means the technology can be integrated into existing workflows without customers having to purchase new hardware or build new bioinformatics tools.

Meanwhile the company has bolstered its scientific advisory board (SAB) and board of directors.

Prof Dennis Yuk Ming Lo, director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine and Professor of Chemical Pathology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and winner of the 2022 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, joins the SAB, bringing decades of research experience.

He has pioneered approaches to cancer liquid biopsy, including for the detection of nasopharyngeal carcinoma and genome-wide approaches for screening multiple types of cancer.

He said: “biomodal’s innovative approach to accessing genetics and epigenetics in a single sample has potential to further our understanding of disease in ways previously unexplored. I’m delighted to work with the team as they continue to evolve the use of this new technology across applications that may eventually impact human health.”

Omead Ostadan has joined the board, brining experience from a range of executive roles in life sciences over the past 25 years, including at Applied Biosystems, Solexa, Illumina and Seer.

He said: “I’m thrilled to join the biomodal board at what feels like an inflection point for the field of epigenetics. The company has developed a transformative platform solution to accelerate the market, and has assembled a truly outstanding team to execute against its full

potential.”

The duet multiomics solution +modC was made available for the first time this week at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting, which concluded on Wednesday (April 19).



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