Biology, Bytes & Beer 2020: Synthace’s networking event with clients and industry partners
We kicked off 2020 by hosting an exciting event for our clients, called Biology, Bytes & Beer (BB&B). It was a chance for our client companies to get to know our team as well as each other, and to exchange ideas that can help achieve our shared goal of revolutionising biological R&D. Held at our London office in White City, the event was a combination of informative scientific talks and laid-back networking activities.
Upon arrival, our guests were greeted with a glass of champagne and introduced to our laboratory facilities. This gave them a chance to see our in-house lab team at work, testing our software platform Antha on a variety of lab automation devices.
Shortly after the lab introduction, everyone gathered in the meeting area for the first part of the event, where some of our clients presented their recent advances in biological R&D and explained how Antha benefited their work.
The talks started with welcoming remarks from Synthace’s CSO and co-founder Markus Gershater, who elaborated on the company’s vision of facilitating laboratory automation and therefore creating a digitised “lab of the future”. Markus set the scene for the following talks by explaining how Antha can be used for automated Design of Experiments (DoE) and large-scale data integration. Markus also presented Synthace’s “Year in review”, reflecting both the growth of the company and the challenges we had to overcome, and explained how Synthace is supporting the Computer-Aided Biology community.
Synthace’s CSO and co-founder Markus Gershater presenting the “Year in review” at the Biology, Bytes & Beer 2020.
Automating protein engineering: from neurotoxins to therapy
Next up was a presentation from Karen Bunting, Director of Protein Sciences at Ipsen, on next generation neurotoxin therapeutics. Karen’s team performs protein engineering on the botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) to produce targeted secretion inhibitors (TSIs) for therapeutic use. Since the process is very time-consuming, expensive, and requires high precision, Ipsen were looking for ways to optimise it. They therefore utilised Antha to perform automated five-part DNA construct assembly on a Gilson PIPETMAX® liquid handler as part of their protein engineering workflow.
They were able to robustly and efficiently achieve 24-48 constructs in six days, whereas performing the protocol manually takes around a month. Manual performance is also largely repetitive and error-prone.
In addition, Antha significantly reduced the cost of the construct assembly and enabled the reuse of the building blocks for future assays.
Finally, Antha increased the throughput of the assay, making it more flexible and efficient.
Ultimately, this will help to identify drug candidates earlier and accelerate therapy delivery to the patient.
Optimising industrial scale lentiviral vector production
The next talk was given by André Raposo, Lead of the Analytical Automation Group at Oxford Biomedica, and Charles Moore-Kelly, Automation Scientist at Oxford Biomedica. They presented their in-house LentiVector® platform that produces lentiviral vectors for advanced therapies, using client-specified transgenes. While parts of the workflow are already powered by automation, it still needs to be optimised for every new client and transgene, which is often time sensitive.
This is where Antha comes in: it enabled Oxford Biomedica to perform automated DoE optimisation of their lentiviral transfection and transduction process using a Gilson PIPETMAX® liquid handler and 96-well plates with different conditions, which resulted in significant time-savings compared to manual execution.
The automated DoE identified a new drug candidate (with its optimal working conditions) that results in a 3-fold increase in the vector titre and is less cytotoxic compared to the alternatives. Antha also improved data reproducibility since all samples and liquid handling steps were tracked and recorded.
Oxford Biomedica are currently working on utilising Antha for other steps in their viral vector R&D process and increasing the experimental throughput even further by using different liquid handlers.
Bioprocess informatics made easier with Antha
Charles also presented how Antha is going to benefit Oxford Biomedica’s bioprocess data processing.
Antha has been deployed to collate bioreactor data with offline analytics and simplify data stitching, visualisation, and analysis, aiding high-throughput process development.
Data processing, visualisation, and archiving present an important bottleneck for Oxford Biomedica’s process development as they are labour-intensive and time-consuming. However, Antha is already helping to overcome this: it allows users to upload and interpret raw data files as well as quickly combine and visualise the results, making them accessible within the cloud environment.
Data from various offline sources (i.e. various lab equipment) automatically feeds into Antha, which enables its storage, collation, visualisation, and analysis.
Finally, André and Charles explained that Antha is at the centre of the company’s R&D space and plays a key role in implementing their “lab of the future” vision.
Closing the design, build, test, learn cycle loop for synthetic genetic network engineering
The final talk was given by Paul Grant, a Synthetic Biologist in the Biological Computation Group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, who presented closed loop automated experimentation and modelling for generating quantitative biological knowledge.
Paul reported how by helping to create structured biological knowledge and storing it in a cloud knowledge graph, Antha will enable scientists to:
“Extract design principles for biology-inspired biological engineering, directly compare quantitative data to parametrised model predictions, make rational forward engineering decisions to meet design specifications, and modularly combine devices for novel functions”.
To learn more about how Microsoft Research utilised Antha to close the design, build, test and learn loop for synthetic genetic networks, read the free-to-access case study.
Building a network to revolutionise biology
The second part of the event was a “Networking Speed Dating” activity, run by the Computer-Aided Biology community to help our guests and team members to get to know each other. People with different industry backgrounds paired up and tried to find out as much as they could about each other before the bell rang, prompting everyone to move on to another person. This activity was a lot of fun and a huge success among the attendees.
At Synthace, we are very pleased that BB&B 2020 was a huge success. For the second year running, it was a great opportunity for us to spend time with our clients, get to know them better, and get an update on their latest scientific achievements. It was particularly rewarding and encouraging for our team to see how Antha has empowered our clients in their R&D processes, and we were glad to hear their positive feedback. We hope to continue the BB&B tradition in the upcoming years, building strong exciting networks in the scientific community and beyond.
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