Next generation cancer diagnostics could be developed in a new alliance between Cambridge based Horizon Discovery and international partner LGC thanks to a £360,224 ($608,000) research grant from the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board.
Horizon, which specialises in genomics research and personalised medicines, will receive more than half the funding.
The grant is awarded under the Technology Strategy Board’s Collaborative Research and Development (CR&D) project ‘Improving Cell and Tissue Analysis for Stratified Medicine’ to be run by Horizon's Diagnostics division in partnership with LGC – a life sciences measurement and testing company.
The project will fund the research and development of a portfolio of novel reference standard materials to serve a high need area of clinical diagnostics, according to Horizon CEO Dr Darrin Disley.
He said the programme would establish methods and cross platform data sets to standardise existing ‘liquid biopsy’ genetic diagnostic tests, to determine test sensitivity, and to help drive the development of new more sensitive systems as well as training and proficiency testing schemes for pathology laboratories.
Minimally invasive ‘liquid biopsies’ of tumour cells and tumour DNA from the bloodstream can enable earlier primary and secondary diagnosis compared to solid tumour biopsies, as well as detection of metastasis or residual disease, and ‘real time’ monitoring of treatment effectiveness that isn’t possible with solid biopsy methods.
Standardisation within and between facilities and across geographies will enable the uptake of minimally invasive cancer diagnostics as a routine clinical procedure.
Advances in next generation sequencing (NGS) and digital PCR (dPCR) are driving the next generation of genomic and genetic cancer diagnostics. However the practical application and validation of these diagnostic tests in the clinic requires availability of reproducible, reliable reference standard material.
Currently used ‘standards’ actually have a high degree of variability as they are based on clinical samples, tumour-derived research cell lines, or ‘home-brew’ kits using plasmid DNA, so do not allow comparisons between operators, platforms or labs.
Horizon will use its gene editing expertise and GENESIS™ platform to precisely engineer cell lines carrying cancer genetic markers.
These cell lines will be used to generate reference standard material. LGC, which is the UK’s designated National Measurement Institute (NMI) for chemical and bioanalytical measurement, is developing methods using digital PCR for accurate value assignment of reference materials.
It will test the reference standard material produced by Horizon. LGC is also developing these methods for highly accurate and sensitive detection of tumour DNA in the bloodstream.