On the cutting edge

A roundup of instrumentation, software and other tools and technology news

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To begin our monthly tour through new technology and services offerings, we have Tokyo-based Toshiba Corp. and a team led by Prof. Yozo Nakazawa in the Department of Pediatrics at Shinshu University developing a “tumor-tropic liposome technology” for gene therapy. The technology uses unique, nano-sized biodegradable liposomes developed by Toshiba to accurately and efficiently deliver therapeutic genes to targeted cancer cells, and achieves safer gene delivery than viruses used as carriers.
The tumor-tropic liposome developed by Toshiba can reportedly deliver therapeutic genes selectively to tumor cells, not normal cells. Shinshu University and Toshiba say they have demonstrated that the tumor-tropic liposome can deliver the therapeutic gene to T cell leukemia cells and achieve a 30-fold increase in uptake and 400-fold increase in gene expression than normal T cells.
The collaborators presented the technology at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Gene & Cell Therapy on May 12.
As they noted in their news release about the technology, “Gene therapy applies the latest advances in biotechnology to treatment of disease at the level of gene expression—using information from a gene to synthesize a functional gene product in an affected cell. In cancer therapy, it inserts therapeutic genes into target cells, where they can repair and enhance cell functions.”
They add that while this is a highly promising way forward, even for cancers that are difficult to treat, “gene therapy is not yet settled science, and there are still hurdles to overcome,” among them how best to get genes into cells. Hence why the university and Toshiba are collaborating in research to utilize biodegradable liposomes as non-virus carriers of therapeutic genes.
Keep reading more tools and technology news from other companies in pharma and biotech.
Measuring microbial growth
WINOOSKI, Vt.—New from BioTek Instruments Inc. is the LogPhase 600 Microbiology Reader, which the company says “is in a class of its own,” designed for measuring microbial growth curves in up to four standard 96-well microplates at a time.
Among the advantages touted are:
  • It is the only four-plate microplate reader on the market
  • It keeps your cells in suspension for optimal growth
  • It offers condensation and evaporation control
  • It provides consistent growth conditions for consistent data
  • It has an easy-to-use and powerful targeted app
LogPhase 600 features purpose-built, robust shaking and consistent temperature control, which are critical to optimal bacteria and yeast cell growth and best data quality.
BioTek emphasizes that the LogPhase 600 is controlled with a software app that provides a “simple, yet powerful user experience,” allowing users to control the reader to acquire data and perform microbiology-focused analysis for all plates.
Keeping trials on track during COVID-19
PHILADELPHIA—ERT, a global data and technology company that captures critical endpoint data while minimizing uncertainty and risk in clinical trials, recently announced a Virtual Visit solution that enables the continuation of clinical trials during and after current global stay-at-home mandates.
As a result of COVID-19, many clinical trials have been delayed as healthcare providers focus their efforts on patients who require urgent care, which limits clinical trial patients’ access to investigative sites for routine visits. In order to keep their studies on track, ERT says, clinical trial sponsors and contract research organizations need innovative solutions that enable investigative site personnel and patients to interact with each other, regardless of their physical location.
ERT’s Virtual Visit solution enables at-home consultations between patients and investigative site personnel via a seamless, dedicated, secure app or web interface. The offering allows patients to consult with their clinicians safely from home, reportedly simplifying their participation in clinical trials and enabling researchers to continue collecting the important safety and efficacy data needed to support their development objectives. The solution is said to complement ERT’s suite of safety and efficacy data capture solutions, improving patient engagement throughout ongoing and new clinical trials.
“We’re pleased to offer another significant capability in a series of revolutionary virtual trial solutions to support our customers as they address the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Matthew McCarty, a vice president at ERT. “Our research indicates that nearly 80 percent of the industry is shifting to virtual trial solutions during this unprecedented time and we remain committed to delivering the dynamic tools they need to continue their important, life-saving research.”
High-throughput antibody validation
HAMPSHIRE, U.K.—Porvair Sciences says that its Chromatrap ChIP kits provide an outstanding solution for antibody suppliers looking to validate the performance of the antibodies they produce for chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay kits.
According to the company, Chromatrap’s “revolutionary” bead-free system offers a faster, easier and more sensitive method to validate antibodies in a high-throughput format, enabling antibody suppliers to easily and efficiently expand their product portfolio to target epigenetics and drug development applications.
“We have developed our bead-free Chromatrap technology to enable maximum capture of antibody. This is achieved by correctly orientated capture proteins throughout the inert filter-based ChIP technology,” said Dr. Lindsay Parkes, a senior research scientist at Porvair Sciences. “Most bead-based systems have capture proteins scattered in random orientation which doesn’t allow full access of antibodies to binding pockets of proteins, thus giving an overall reduced capture efficiency. This is important for high sensitivity especially for detection of binding of low abundant targets.”
Chromatrap ChIP kits enable processing of up to 96 ChIP assays simultaneously in just one day allowing multiple sample, antibody and gene targets to be tested in parallel on a single plate.
X-Pure GelMA for translational medicine
IRVING, Texas—Rousselot, a Darling Ingredients brand and provider of collagen-based solutions, introduced X-Pure GelMA at Bio Digital 2020. Reportedly the first GMP-ready range of gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) biomaterials suitable for preclinical and clinical applications, X-Pure GelMA is part of the X-Pure portfolio of ultra-pure gelatins and collagens, suitable for use as biomaterials in 3D bioprinting, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
As noted by the company, methacryloyl is a commonly used crosslinker, important to increase the melting point and mechanical strength of gelatin-based constructs. In GelMA hydrogels, the inherent bioactivity, biodegradability and cell compatibility of gelatin are combined with the tailorability of photo-crosslinking. This combination holds a huge potential for the creation of tunable biological environments for the culture of various eukaryotic cells at body temperature.
GelMA-oriented patent applications have been growing exponentially over the last five years, with many of these research concepts now being translated into the clinic. However, standard GelMA products often carry high and variable levels of soluble impurities originating from either the gelatin raw material or the chemical synthesis process. Rousselot’s purification process, centered around a two-stage routine, results in ultra-low levels of pyrogens and residual methacrylic acid, is said to provide an excellent safety profile to the product.
CellDrop Automated Cell Counter wins new product award
WILMINGTON, Del.—DeNovix Inc., a developer and manufacturer of instrumentation and assays for the life sciences, was awarded the Best New Life Science Product of the Year Award for the CellDrop Automated Cell Counter, which enables scientists to count cells without slides.
With a drive towards sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of the laboratory, the DeNovix CellDrop Cell Counter, with its DirectPipette technology, incorporates a novel sample loading method that eliminates the need for disposable plastic slides typically required for routine cell counting.
The CellDrop features both dual fluorescence and brightfield optics and a variable height chamber, enabling accurate measurement across a wide range of cell types, densities and sizes.
“Since introducing CellDrop to the market in April 2019 the reviews and feedback from scientists around the world has been excellent and we are delighted it has been recognized with this prestigious award” said Fred Kielhorn, CEO of DeNovix. “Researchers are actively seeking out ways to improve the environmental footprint of their labs and CellDrop enables this while decreasing consumable costs and bringing new functionality.”

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