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In Brief This Week: UC Berkeley, Biocept, Biocartis, Angle, Twist Bioscience, More

NEW YORK – TED's Audacious Project said this week that it is providing $70 million in funding to a research initiative led by Jennifer Doudna and Jill Banfield at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) at the University of California, Berkeley. The initiative, called Engineering the Microbiome with CRISPR to Improve our Climate and Health, is a collaboration between UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC San Francisco. It will combine CRISPR genome editing of microbes with metagenomics to create a precision microbiome editing platform, with the goal of developing treatments for human disease and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The initial focus will be on childhood asthma as well as mitigation of agricultural methane emissions. 

Biocept said this week that its 2022 revenues dropped 58 percent year over year to $25.9 million from $61.2 million in 2021. The San Diego-based molecular diagnostic development firm attributed the falloff to a decline in RT-PCR testing volume and "changes in implicit price concessions due to payor class changes." It also noted that the number of commercial accessions in 2022 declined to 294,182 in 2022 from 532,520 in 2021. 

Net loss for last year was $32.1 million, or $1.89 per share, compared to a net loss of $2.8 million, or $.19 per share, in 2021. Biocept's R&D expenses grew to $6.2 million in 2022 from $5.0 million in 2021, while its SG&A costs rose to $23.2 million from $20.9 million. The company ended 2022 with $12.9 million in cash. 

In a statement, Samuel Riccitelli, Biocept’s chairman and interim president and CEO, noted cost-efficiency steps the firm has taken, including enhanced lab operations, a reduction in services from outside vendors, and a trim in headcount by more than 40 percent from pre-COVID testing levels. Its academic center and hospital customers that want to continue having access to testing with the company’s CNSide assay for suspected CNS metastases in patients with carcinomas or melanomas will also be required to enter into service agreements with the company, he said. 

Biocartis said this week that its first quarter product revenues rose 2 percent year over year on rising sales of the company's oncology cartridges. The Mechelen, Belgium-based molecular diagnostics instrument and assay developer reported product revenues of €10.8 million ($11.9 million) for the quarter, comprised of about €8 million in oncology cartridge sales, €500,000 from SARS-CoV-2 products, and €2.2 million from instruments. The firm said it ended Q1 with a gross profit of €3.8 million, up about 9 percent from the €3.5 million recorded in Q1 2022, and a cash position of €43.9 million. The firm predicts product revenues will rise between 25 percent and 30 percent for the fiscal year. 

Biocartis noted among accomplishments in the quarter that it received US Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance in March for the firm's microsatellite instability assay, which it said will pave the way for substantial growth, and launched its research-use Idylla IDH1-2 Mutation Assay Kit, which the company expects will help it launch more assays using its Flex technology that shortens development time as well as expand its offerings for liquid biopsy-based monitoring. 

Angle said this week that its preliminary 2022 revenues were flat year over year at £1.0 million ($1.24 million) while its loss for the year grew to £21.7 million from £15.0 million a year ago. The UK-based liquid biopsy firm attributed the increased loss to planned investments. Angle finished 2022 with cash and cash equivalents of £31.9 million. For 2023 it said that product and service revenues are progressing well and Q1 2023 revenues are ahead of the year-ago numbers. It noted that a deal with BioView to develop a HER2 breast cancer test is expected to result in revenues of £1.2 million in the initial phase. 

Twist Bioscience said this week that it has entered into a third collaboration with Astellas, to support antibody discovery for immunotherapies. Under the terms of the deal, Astellas will license a suite of Twist's VHH antibody libraries to be used in drug discovery and development over five years. Twist will receive an upfront payment and will be eligible to receive annual maintenance fees and fees per product through payments associated with specific clinical and commercial milestones. Twist will also be eligible to receive royalty payments on product sales. 

Microba Life Sciences of Brisbane, Australia, and Aviwell, based in Toulouse, France, announced a two-year strategic partnership this week. Under the deal, they will combine Microba's experience in microbial genome sequencing and metagenomics with Aviwell's capabilities in microbiome multiomics analyses, functional metagenomics bioinformatics, microbial culture, and field applications in order to identify and commercialize direct fed microbials (DFM) for livestock. 

AI software development company Evo Pricing of the UK said this week that it has partnered with Dante Genomics to offer genome sequencing to all of its employees and "ecosystem partners" as part of its employee benefits program. Dante, based in Italy, is providing needleless at-home blood collection kits and its clinical whole-genome sequencing test under the deal. Evo also said that it plans to build a new AI service that Dante can use to market its offering. 

Virax Biolabs said this week that the firm had reached an agreement for distribution of its CE-marked Marburg Virus Real-Time PCR kit in certain European markets, including Germany and France. A spokesperson said the firm is not identifying the distribution partner or disclosing financial or other details of the deal. 

IQvia and Euformatics said this week that they are collaborating to build a next-generation sequencing genomic data analysis platform, combining Euformatics automation technologies for pipelines from genomic workflows to clinical reporting of results with IQvia's real-world technologies platform. 

Abbott said this week that it has joined the Climate Amplified Disease and Epidemics consortium, a group that will use data science technology and diagnostic testing to determine and possibly mitigate the impact climate change has on disease outbreaks. It consists of more than 100 scientists from public health agencies, academia, and industry who will develop technologies that can aggregate environmental, weather, and viral sequencing data sets to predict if conditions could cause a disease outbreak, Abbott said in a statement. If a potential outbreak is identified, rapid surveillance testing and resources can be sent to that area to prevent further spread, the company added. Abbott will provide viral sequencing and testing data and can provide diagnostic testing for potential outbreaks, it noted. The consortium's initial work will begin with disease surveillance in Africa and expand to other countries often impacted by infectious disease outbreaks. 

In Brief This Week is a selection of news items that may be of interest to our readers but had not previously appeared on GenomeWeb.