TET-assisted pyridine borane sequencing (TAPS) is a new method for measuring DNA methylation, a chemical modification on cytosine bases. DNA methylation has important regulatory roles in the cell but is frequently altered in cancer. These altered DNA methylation levels are preserved in DNA that is released into the blood from cancer cells and therefore DNA methylation has great potential as the basis for a multi-cancer blood test. However, a key limitation to achieving this aim, especially for detecting cancer at the earliest stages, is the low sensitivity of current DNA methylation technology. One of the advantages of TAPS over the current standard methodology is the avoidance of the use of bisulphite, a harsh chemical that severely degrades DNA. TAPS is a mild reaction that preserves DNA integrity and is effective at very low DNA concentrations, which would increase the sensitivity of blood-based DNA methylation assays. TAPS also better retains sequence complexity, enabling simultaneous collection of DNA methylation and genetic data, and cutting sequencing costs in half. Read more about the potential of TAPS as the basis for a multi-cancer blood test here.
The company Base Genomics has launched to set a new gold standard in DNA methylation detection using TAPS.
“I am thrilled about the launch of Base Genomics and look forward to seeing the TAPS technology developed in my lab applied to new technologies for cancer detection and the advancement of a variety of fields of biomedical research,” said Dr Chunxiao Song, who is an assistant member of the Ludwig Institute Oxford Branch, co-founder of Base Genomics and remains chemistry advisor to the company.
“Genomic technologies with the power, simplicity and broad applicability of TAPS come along very infrequently,” said Base Genomics CTO Dr Vincent Smith. “It has the potential to have an impact on epigenetics similar to that which Illumina’s SBS chemistry had on Next Generation Sequencing.”
Base Genomics has a team of leading scientists and clinicians, including Dr Vincent Smith, a world-leader in genomic product development and former Illumina VP; Professor Anna Schuh, Head of Molecular Diagnostics at the University of Oxford and Principal Investigator on over 30 clinical trials; Drs Chunxiao Song and Yibin Liu, co-inventors of TAPS at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Oxford; and Oliver Waterhouse, previously an Entrepreneur in Residence at Oxford Sciences Innovation and founding team member at Zinc VC.
The company has closed an oversubscribed seed funding round of $11 million USD (£9 million GBP), led by Oxford Sciences Innovation alongside investors with industry expertise in genomics and oncology. This funding will progress development of the TAPS technology, initially focusing on developing a blood test for early-stage cancer and minimal residual disease.
”The ability to sequence a large amount of high-quality epigenetic information from a simple blood test could unlock a new era of preventative medicine,” said Base Genomics founder and CEO Oliver Waterhouse. “In the future, individuals will not just be sequenced once to determine their largely static genetic code, but will be sequenced repeatedly over time to track dynamic epigenetic changes caused by age, lifestyle, and disease.”
"In order to realise the potential of liquid biopsies for clinically meaningful diagnosis and monitoring, sensitive detection and precise quantification of circulating tumour DNA is paramount,” said Base Genomics CMO Professor Anna Schuh. “Current approaches are not fit for purpose to achieve this, but Base Genomics has developed a game-changing technology which has the potential to make the sensitivity of liquid biopsies a problem of the past."
For more information, see the Base Genomics press release.