One swab, many results

Mawi DNA taps CosmosID to evaluate its iSwab-Microbiome sample collection offering

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HAYWARD, Calif.—Mawi DNA Technologies, a U.S.-based company developing unique biosample collection technologies, recently announced its partnership with CosmosID to better understand the efficacy of iSwab-Microbiome sample collection apparatus. CosmosID focuses on microbiome analysis and the rapid identification and characterization of microorganisms for pharmaceutical R&D, molecular diagnostics, public health, food safety, agriculture and environmental applications.
Mawi chose CosmosID as a partner in the hopes that CosmosID would try to “break” the product—pushing it to its limits and seeking weaknesses in the kit. They were also impressed with ComosID’s strong relationships in the microbiome world, and the respect it has from its peers.
“Our fellow microbiome researchers have been looking for a more cost-effective, safe and reliable alternative to transporting frozen microbiome samples. The new iSWAB-Microbiome sample collection technology was designed to address this need,” said Dr. Bassam El-Fahmawi, president and chief technology officer for Mawi DNA Technologies. “CosmosID, a proven leader in the field of microbiome analysis, was the ideal research partner to help our team verify the functionality of iSWAB-Microbiome in real time with CosmosID’s powerful End-to-End Microbiome interrogation platform.”
While there are numerous options to test DNA, existing sample collection options have numerous limitations. Samples need to be frozen to retain stability, thus limiting both the time and the transport vehicles available. Non-cold chain preservation methods use hazardous organic solvents which complicate the extraction of sample data, while also significantly altering the live microbiome sample and making it harder to analyze. Lastly, such collection methods are specific to a sample type and cannot be universally used.
The iSwab has numerous unique features that solve many of these challenges. The tool allows for a universal, single non-invasive swab collection for samples from water, soil, feces, sewage, vagina, mouth or skin. The swab can be introduced to the tube at the point of collection and suspended in a stabilizer, eliminating costly sample problems at the assay phase. Such samples remain free of contamination and are stabilized in a non-toxic proprietary buffer for up to 40 days, allowing for longer transport times. The iSwab also manages to mask sample odor, allowing scientists to process them without the need for a hood. Lastly, the iSwab can function as a concentrator, as one tube allows for the introduction of multiple, repeat swabs.
El-Fahmawi was inspired to develop the iSwab when one of his children fell gravely ill, but the doctors were unable to determine the cause, and could not obtain a blood sample due to collapsing veins. They ultimately needed to make an incision to obtain a blood sample, and the experience led him to explore easier methods of obtaining samples as well as one that would enable testing for multiple biomarkers from a single sample. The iSwab allows just that, with the capacity to test DNA, RNA, proteins and even cell phenotypes.
“With the increasing impact of microbiome research on human health, a need to interrogate RNA, in addition to DNA, from the same sample is emerging,” El-Fahmawi remarked. “iSWAB-Microbiome is designed to stabilize microbial DNA and RNA from the same sample, addressing this emerging need. We don’t just want to launch another sample collection option. It has to address the needs of the microbiome community now and potentially in the future.”
“We’re impressed with the vigorous validation approach that MAWI has chosen to employ for the development of iSWAB-Microbiome. Other companies in the sample collection space generally look at lower-resolution comparisons, such as 16S or genus level comparisons when validating their product’s ability to preserve microbiome composition,” commented Manoj Dadlani, CosmosID CEO. “MAWI has chosen to work with us on high-resolution comparisons using whole-genome sequencing to analyze sample preservation at the species and strain level. We expect the iSWAB-Microbiome kit to be well received by the microbiome community for two reasons: first, its robust long-term stabilization performance, and second, we believe that it is the only non-toxic sample collection kit.”
CosmosID will continue its exploration of the product, with more comprehensive RNA results expected later this year. Meanwhile, Mawi is exploring several other exciting uses for the iSwab kit, including liquid biopsy analysis, testing of hormones and vitamin levels, and enzymes for liver function, all from a single sample. They also expect to be able to apply the same benefit with blood samples, allowing a person to give just one blood sample to be tested for numerous conditions.

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