La Jolla Institute bags Beacon platform

The La Jolla Institute plans to use the Beacon optofluidic technology to quickly identify antibodies to treat deadly viruses

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LA JOLLA, Calif. and EMERYVILLE, Calif. — The La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) has announced the acquisition of Berkeley Lights’ Beacon Optofluidic Platform and B cell antibody discovery workflow, with which the Institute plans to accelerate the discovery of rare and lifesaving antibodies for the treatment of re-emerging and emerging diseases.
Antibody discovery can be a long, laborious process that results in the identification of only a few antibody candidates. But with Berkeley Lights optofluidic technology, all antibody-producing B-cells can be screened in less than a day, and the screening can result in hundreds of candidates. Then the most effective can be selected and moved forward towards a treatment.
The Beacon platform will reportedly transform the discovery process into an optimized and largely automated process that takes weeks instead of years.  
“We are always battling time, and it’s exciting to add this new technology to our arsenal of cutting-edge tools that are available to LJI researchers,” said Stephen Wilson, Ph.D., executive vice president and chief operating officer at La Jolla Institute. “The Beacon platform from Berkeley Lights can screen tens of thousands of antibody-producing B cells to find the best treatment candidates, including when time matters the most—during a fast spreading outbreak of a deadly disease.”
Once therapeutic antibodies are discovered and characterized, they can be produced quickly under GMP conditions. These antibodies are the fastest route to a treatment for an emerging disease, often called “Disease X” in threat scenarios.
For example, the recently announced Ebola treatments are based on antibodies that are infused intravenously into the blood, providing immediate immunity. Some, known as neutralizing antibodies, inactivate the virus by attaching onto the outer shell of viral particles and preventing it from entering cells. Other types of antibodies inspire the immune system to clear any remaining virus from the body.
The research and leadership of LJI professor Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., was instrumental in guiding development of antibodies into treatments to be used in the field. Not only did Saphire determine the three-dimensional structure of the Ebola surface protein recognized by neutralizing antibodies, she also brought together a global coalition — including 45 labs over 5 continents — to define which therapeutic antibodies effectively combat disease in humans infected with Ebola virus, and why.
“The design of [the] Beacon platform and our plasma B cell antibody discovery workflow is particularly effective for these types of viral neutralization and emerging pathogen therapeutic applications — rapidly finding rare and highly effective antibody therapeutics. We are thrilled that our technology will support LJI’s groundbreaking work to identify human neutralizing antibodies that can treat the deadliest virus outbreaks,” added John Proctor, senior vice president of Antibody Therapeutics at Berkeley Lights.
Beyond emerging deadly outbreaks, antibodies are also central to biotherapies that treat cancer and autoimmune disease, as well as toxins like snakebites, the rabies virus and viruses that have made an unexpected comeback, like measles.
“The Beacon platform, paired with ingenious protein chemistry, will facilitate a high-throughput approach to identifying highly potent and rare ‘needle-in-a-haystack’ antibodies that would be ideal biotherapy candidates that have been difficult or impossible to find with previously available technology,” noted Wilson.

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