Getting selective with febit

Company pushing forward with established and new HybSelect technology to capture NGS market

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BOSTON—On Jan. 20, the Molecular Genetics Core Facility (MGCF) at Children's Hospital Boston became one of the most recent users of the HybSelect technology offered by febit—a provider of automated solutions for enabling biochip applications in life sciences with headquarters in Lexington, Mass., for the Americas and Heidelberg, Germany, for the rest of the world.

The announcement came close on the heels of the late-February launch of febit's new HybSelector instrument. Both announcements, along with ongoing work at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), illustrate febit's push to be a leader in the next-generation sequencing (NGS) market, says Peer Staehler, febit's chief scientific officer.

All three pieces of news reflect different aspects of febit's progress, with the MGCF work showing the value and potential of febit's HybSelect technology—particularly when paired with the SOLiD platform from Applied Biosystems, part of Life Technologies Corp.—at an end user's location. The work at CHOP, on the other hand, has shown the ability of febit's technology to provide NGS more as a service model.

But concurrently with those two relationships, the power of febit's newest technology is something that had already been shown with the recent establishment of a febit-based facility to perform targeted NGS work on large scales.

As Staehler explains, febit combined the SOLiD 3plus System with febit's HybSelect Sequence Capture Solution in one streamlined targeted NGS pipeline, providing what he says is the ability to "resequence relevant genes in hundred of sample in a very reasonable timeframe and very economical framework. The febit-based facility includes two SOLiD 3plus sequencing systems as well as two of febit's proprietary new HybSelector platforms and was recently used to resequence several hundred thousand bases in over 400 clinical samples over a four-week period.

"We will have the capacity to do more than 1,000 samples per week soon, which will enable studies with thousands of samples to be conducted in a reasonable timeframe," Staehler notes.

The news about the HybSelector launch hit the news wires on Feb. 17, with the announcement that it would be unveiled at the 11th annual Advances in Genome Biology and Technology meeting being held Feb. 24-27 in Marco Island, Fla. The new HybSelector instrument is designed to replace the Geniom RT Analyzer for high-quality DNA enrichment followed by targeted next-generation sequencing.

"The HybSelector features all technical components necessary for HybSelect, our DNA enrichment protocol," says Staehler. "We are able to offer the HybSelector at a very competitive price. This will enable the large genomics research community, which has already indicated a high interest in affordable, targeted resequencing solutions, to use HybSelect's high sample throughput at low acquisition costs." The economic benefit of HybSelect increases the potential for widespread use of NGS in clinical studies, Staehler adds.

In Boston, the MGCF chose febit's Geniom RT Analyzer—as the HybSelector wasn't available for sale yet, with the aim of enabling genetics researchers to conduct the highly economic targeted enrichment of genes of interest for resequencing.

"We feel that febit's HybSelect technology will be a powerful tool for our researchers, in conjunction with our Applied Biosystems SOLiD platform, at a reasonable cost," says Hal Schneider, core manager of the MGCF. "The ease and flexibility of HybSelect allows us to study a variety of genetic diseases and multiplex bar-coded libraries, making sequence capture projects much more accessible and affordable for our investigators."

According to febit, the economical nature of HybSelect increases the potential for widespread use of next generation sequencing in clinical studies because—instead of sequencing the complete genomes of only a few patients—HybSelect enables the analysis of specific genes of interest from large patient cohorts for the same price and data management effort. The larger patient pool now provides the statistically relevant data that are necessary for clinical studies.

"Targeted enrichment and multiplexing are necessary to truly benefit from the advantages of high performance sequencers, and febit has developed HybSelect to meet this need," Staehler notes. "Together with Life Technologies' SOLiD 3, HybSelect can sequence 16 parallel samples in one run. febit is currently working on an upgrade to a 96-plex barcode set. This will enable sequencing of 2,304 samples in six working days."

While Staehler notes that he is proud of the MGCF work in Boston, he points out that ongoing work at CHOP in Pennsylvania has been able to showcase the power of febit's newer systems and workflows, sending samples to be processed through febit's new NGS facility. In fact, the work at CHOP is one of four "first studies" to demonstrate the power of febit's new targeted resequencing pipeline when used for clinical partners.

At CHOP specifically, febit is working on the development of a clinical diagnostic test for sensorineural hearing loss. The Molecular Genetics Laboratory at CHOP specializes in providing DNA-based diagnostic testing for genetic disorders affecting children and adults in the United States and around the world, with the knowledge that more than 40 genes are known to influence hearing loss, which has a genetic etiology in the majority of cases.

Utilizing a targeted capture and resequencing approach to analyze multiple genes simultaneously can significantly reduce the time and expense of analysis, potentially matching the level of single gene disorders, Staehler says. The purpose of the joint study with CHOP is to explore the feasibility of clinical molecular diagnostic testing of approximately 37 genes and validation of this approach by sequencing of 96 affected patients.

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