JUNE 3, 2020, New York— Ludwig Cancer Research is proud to announce that technology developed at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Branch at Oxford University is the basis for the launch of a new biotechnology company in the United Kingdom named Base Genomics.
The startup has licensed from the Ludwig Institute a new type of DNA sequencing technology that greatly improves the sensitivity, efficiency and ease of sequencing DNA methylation—a chemical modification made to some cytosine bases in DNA. Such modifications, or “epigenetic” marks, help control gene expression, and their aberrant distribution across the genome is a hallmark of cancer.
The new technology developed in the Ludwig Oxford laboratory of Chunxiao Song, TET-assisted pyridine borane sequencing (TAPS), is a less damaging and more efficient replacement for bisulfite sequencing, the current industry standard for mapping DNA methylation.
Bisulfite sequencing is extremely destructive, degrading as much as 99% of the DNA in sequenced samples. The far gentler TAPS method, by contrast, furnishes results a lot faster and at lower cost, leaves most of the sample used for sequencing intact and permits the simultaneous generation of both epigenetic and genetic data. Because it is so much more efficient, TAPS is far better suited to applications such as liquid biopsies, which seek to detect cancer by analyzing vanishingly small traces of DNA shed by tumors into the blood stream.
The epigenetic information captured by TAPS offers a valuable layer of sophistication to such assays, since patterns of DNA methylation can be used to both detect cancers and pinpoint their tissues of origin—a key challenge in the development of liquid biopsies. Base Genomics just completed a seed funding round of $11 million that will be used to develop TAPS for such applications.
“I am thrilled about the launch of Base Genomics and look forward to seeing the TAPS technology developed in my lab applied to new technologies for cancer detection and the advancement of a variety of fields of biomedical research,” said Song, who is an assistant member of the Ludwig Institute Oxford Branch, co-founder of Base Genomics and remains chemistry advisor to the company.
For more on the launch of Base Genomics, refer to the company news release available here.