The Wyss Institute’s DNA nanotechnology-powered SPEAR protein-detection technology has been licensed to Spear Bio

Today, Harvard University and Spear Bio, Inc. In the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering announced that the institute’s DNA nanotechnology-powered ultrasensitive SPEAR protein-detection technology has been licensed to a newly formed Boston-based startup. Spear Bio has signed a worldwide, exclusive license agreement with Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), granting SPEAR Bio the right to commercialize the SPEAR protein detection technology. Spear Bio will develop a reagent-based platform for ultrasensitive protein detection in small-volume samples with an initial focus on research-use-only applications.

Wyss core faculty member Peng Yin, Ph.D. A pioneer in the group, SPEAR technology enables ultrasensitive protein detection in small patient samples, such as blood drops from finger-sticks, dried blood spot samples, and other biofluids. With the help of micro-sampling techniques, taking advantage of existing laboratory equipment, including the now ubiquitous qPCR machines. Spear Bio plans to build a more widely applicable protein detection platform using SPEAR technology, and will first focus on commercializing an ultra-sensitive assay that can accurately measure levels of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) against SARS-CoV-2.

Production and levels of NAbs are a key metric for understanding protective immunity and vaccine efficacy, and SARS-CoV-2 NAb-detection assays are tools used by the Centers for Disease Control, as well as vaccine and drug developers, to determine susceptibility. of individuals to infectious pathogens such as Covid-19. The ability to sensitively and accurately measure them in small, easy-to-obtain patient samples could significantly increase the depth and throughput of such studies, and enable a variety of future research and diagnostic tests.

The invention of SPEAR was enabled by major advances in DNA nanotechnology that we have made over the years at Wyss, including deterministic and signal-dependent synthesis of readable DNA sequences. The detection platform built by Feng Xuan, and then substantially de-risked with other members of the lab, now has significant potential to develop immunoassay products for clinical research. artificial environment diagnosis in the near term.”

Peng Yin, Ph.D., Lead, Wyss Institute Molecular Robotics Initiative and Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School (HMS)

A co-founder of Spear Bio, Yin previously co-founded other startups, including Ultivue Inc., NuProbe Global, Torus Biosystems Inc., 3EO Health, and Digital Biology, Inc., that leverage technologies developed in his Wyss Institute lab.

Feng Xuan, Ph.D., was a postdoctoral fellow on Yin’s team and also co-founded SPEAR Bio and is now the company’s CTO. During technology development, he co-invented Cherry (Tsz Wing) Fan, Ph.D., and Yu Wang, Ph.D. and worked with other members of the group. Wang is now SPEAR Bio’s Acting Head of Application Development.

In SPEAR, which stands for “successive proximity extension amplification reaction,” small amounts of protein, including NAbs, can be detected with target-binding probes that bind to distinct but proximal sites on the protein structure. This proximal double-tagging event allows the two probes to “shake hands”, their interaction triggering a specially engineered sequential amplification reaction, and the synthesis of a unique DNA sequence that can then be amplified and quantified using standard qPCR tools. Importantly, in the absence of detection targets, interactions between free-floating probes do not allow synthesis of the complete DNA sequence, significantly reducing background compared to conventional proximity-based assays. SPEAR outperforms other protein detection assays by combining performance over a large range of target protein levels (dynamic range) with its extreme sensitivity, wash-free workflow, and ability to be fully effective in sample volumes as small as 1 uL. The technology was de-risked with the help of Wyss’ translation engine, in which it first received the status of a certification project, and then of a designated institute project to support the development of high-value technologies with high potential for the market. Success.

“The extreme sensitivity to very small sample volumes provided by SPEAR, and the fact that it can be read using common quantitative PCR instruments, offers unique potential for creating microsampling-based assays. artificial environment diagnostics that could transform academic and clinical research in many disease areas,” said Juan.

Spear Bio is currently implementing an assay to quantify SARS-CoV-2 NAb in dried blood samples, and thereby aims to facilitate COVID-19 disease and vaccine research. Beyond this first application, the company plans to use the assay to develop other research and diagnostic applications that require ultrasensitive and quantitative detection of protein biomarkers in small samples. “SPEAR’s unique capabilities give us a clear value proposition for market entry.” said Oliver Tasinari, Senior Director of Business Development at SPEAR Bio. “We are now laser-focused on translating the exceptional technical performance of assay technology into a satisfying customer experience to solve research and diagnostic problems.”

Harvard initially granted SPEAR Bio access to this technology on a non-exclusive basis, for a limited period, in accordance with the university’s commitment to the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework. The framework enables broad access to emerging technologies to spur rapid innovation in the search for solutions to combat the epidemic.

“Our ability to detect small amounts of biomolecules in all molecular species with increased speed and specificity, and in a variety of settings, including dried blood samples, opens up entirely new approaches to medical diagnostics that can be used in home and hospital settings. Wyss’s SPEAR protein detection technology, “Developed by Peng Yin’s group, is at the forefront of this field, and will help move the needle in terms of rapid clinical evaluation of patient safety after vaccination or infection during COVID-19 in the near term,” said Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, MD, Ph. D, whatever Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and Hansjorg Vice Professor of Bioinspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

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