On the cutting edge

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

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February brings us Valentine’s Day, but instead of chocolates or roses, we offer you the gift of news on Chinese approval of a microarray scanner for in-vitro diagnostics, a forensic genomics system, a proteomics assay, a tissue analytics software and workflow offering and an iPad app for rapid cognitive assessment.
Agilent microarray scanner approved for in-vitro diagnostics in China
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Agilent Technologies Inc. announced in late January that the China Food and Drug Administration has approved the company’s SureScan Dx microarray scanner as a medical device for in-vitro diagnostic use.
“Bringing microarray scanning technology to clinical-quality standards is an important milestone in moving the advancement of genome-wide chromosome analysis to the clinic,” said Dr. Richard Choy, associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Agilent’s SureScan Dx scanner offers high resolution and sensitivity as well as dynamic autofocus to correct for differences in slide thickness. This means high-quality data for analysis.”
The product is also approved for in-vitro diagnostic use in Europe, South Korea and Singapore.
The SureScan Dx microarray scanner comes with an autoloader and Agilent Microarray Scan Control software. The system measures fluorescence signals from labeled DNA and RNA targets hybridized to microarrays, for example, to compare two DNA samples for differences.
“Agilent is committed to offering quality, precision measurement equipment to clinical laboratories worldwide,” said Peter Serpentino, Agilent vice president and general manager for Genomics. “We are pleased to introduce the SureScan Dx scanner in China for use in clinical laboratories.”
Illumina announces first targeted NGS solution for forensic genomics
SAN DIEGO—Admittedly, forensics isn’t an area we cover very often, but Jan. 21 saw Illumina Inc. announce the launch of the MiSeq FGx Forensic Genomics System, reportedly the first fully validated forensic next-generation sequencing (NGS) system, which simultaneously interrogates short tandem repeats and other valuable genetic markers, including single nucleotide polymorphisms, to provide informative DNA profiles. The system enables more robust analysis of a broader range of genetic markers in a single workflow than previous technology allowed, supporting the reliable analysis of both routine and challenging forensic DNA samples. With the MiSeq FGx System, crime labs can now identify investigative leads from "no suspect" cases that may otherwise reach a dead end.
"Illumina has enormous potential to improve public safety and human health in the forensic genomics market with this NGS-based, sample-to-answer system," said Matt Posard, senior vice president and general manager of new and emerging opportunities for Illumina. "Several years ago, Illumina assembled an experienced forensic team and challenged them to develop a solution leveraging our technology to revolutionize the way forensic laboratories process and resolve their cases. Together with input from the global forensic DNA community, we are proud to launch the MiSeq FGx Forensic Genomics System. We expect it will be used to alleviate the mounting backlog of investigative samples, helping to solve cold cases, and exonerate the innocent."
SOMAscan Proteomics Assay deployed at University of Colorado
DENVER—SomaLogic Inc. announced in late 2014 that the SOMAscan assay, which it calls “a breakthrough proteomics platform,” would be deployed at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD), Anschutz Medical Campus. The assay will be performed for UCD’s basic and clinical researchers under the direction of Dr. Mark Geraci, head of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, and Dr. Bifeng Gao, director and manager of UCD’s Genomics and Microarray Core.
“We are excited to be able to offer our research colleagues a way to perform critical proteomics studies to complement the genomics assays we currently provide,” said Geraci. “I believe that SomaLogic’s SOMAscan assay will accelerate not only our understanding of the many different diseases being studied here, but will also point to potential new therapeutic approaches.”
Compared to other current proteomic technologies, SomaLogic's offerings is said to give researchers unprecedented power for protein biomarker discovery, diagnostics development and pharmaceutical discovery and development. SOMAmer (Slow Off-rate Modified Aptamer) reagents, which are at the center of SomaLogic’s proteomics platform, are a new class of superior protein-binding reagents that combine the best properties of both monoclonal antibodies and traditional aptamers. The SOMAscan assay, which incorporates 1,129 different SOMAmer reagents, can efficiently, accurately, and rapidly measure proteins across a wide range of concentrations in small volumes of multiple biological sample types.
Protea launches new tissue analytics software and workflow
SAN FRANCISCO—Protea Biosciences Group Inc. announced Jan. 12 that it had developed a new software platform, known as histology-guided mass spec imaging (HG-MSI), that enables pathologists to combine traditional microscopy and histology with high-resolution mass spectrometry molecular imaging.
"Understanding the molecular differences between select cell sub-populations can be useful for the identification and characterization of biomarkers within these regions that can improve the differential diagnosis of cancer and other human disease,” said Steve Turner, Protea's chairman and CEO.
The company's HG-MSI software allows researchers to share, annotate and direct the analysis of specific tissue morphologies and cell subpopulations by mass spec imaging. The company has used its HG-MSI software in its previously announced collaboration with researchers at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the molecular profiling of cell sub-populations in lung adenocarcinoma tissues.
Rapid cognitive assessment via new iPad research product  
CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—In late January, Cambridge Cognition, a global provider of cognitive assessment software, announced the launch of a new product in the Cantab Connect range—Cantab Connect Research—for researchers requiring rapid, accurate and reproducible clinical measures of cognitive function.  
Cognitive science is a vital component in the drive to find treatments for neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases, which represent an immense and growing health, social and economic burden. However, as cognition is highly complex, the collection of valid, reliable and replicable data is challenging. Current practice still relies largely on pencil-and-paper questionnaires. An objective, reliable and easy-to-use tool is therefore required, the company says, and Cantab Connect technology provides this with highly validated touchscreen tests delivered on iPad devices.
“To date, products have been focused on neuroscience applications, and Cantab Connect Research is ideal for use in research projects on Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease. However, as the measurement of brain function in non-central nervous system disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, becomes more common, we believe researchers who are not experts in cognition will find Cantab Connect Research an invaluable tool both as a general assessment of cognitive function and as a measurement of cognitive effects in healthy volunteers,” said Dr. Andrew Blackwell, Cambridge Cognition’s chief scientific officer.

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