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Harvard University, Wyss Institute License Protein Detection Technology to Spear Bio

NEW YORK – The Wyss Institute and Harvard University said on Tuesday that they have licensed protein detection technology to Spear Bio.

Spear Bio, a Wyss spinout, has signed a worldwide exclusive licensing agreement to commercialize successive proximity extension amplification reaction (SPEAR) protein detection technology. Spear Bio plans to develop a reagent-based platform for protein detection in small-volume samples with an initial focus on research-use-only applications.

"The extreme sensitivity in very small sample volumes provided by SPEAR, and the fact that it can be read out using common quantitative PCR equipment, offer unique potential for creating microsampling-based in vitro diagnostics that can transform academic and clinical research in multiple disease areas," said Spear Bio Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer Feng Xuan.

Harvard had initially granted Spear Bio access to the technology on a nonexclusive basis, for a limited term, under its COVID-19 technology access framework. Financial and other details of the deal were not disclosed.

Developed in the lab of Wyss Core Faculty member Peng Yin, SPEAR can detect small amounts of proteins, including neutralizing antibodies via target-binding probes that bind to different but proximal sites in a protein's structure. The two probes can then interact, triggering an extension reaction to synthesize a new unique DNA sequence which can be quantified by qPCR.

In addition to sensitivity and the ability to work with sample volumes as low as 1 µL, SPEAR also offers a wash-free workflow and a large dynamic range.

Xuan and Yin published a paper in 2017 in Nature Communications showing proof of concept of a PCR-based "DNA nanoscope" for "analysis of the spatial arrangement of molecular features."

SPEAR can work off of tiny samples, such as dried blood spots or other micro-sampling techniques. Spear Bio plans to use the technology to build a protein detection platform and will first focus on commercializing an assay that can accurately measure the levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Yin has spun out other startups, including Ultivue, NuProbe Global, Torus Biosystems, and 3EO Health.

"The invention of SPEAR was enabled by key advances in DNA nanotechnology that we made at the Wyss over the years, including the prescribed and signal-dependent synthesis of readable DNA sequences," Yin, a cofounder of Spear Bio, said in a statement. "The detection platform … now has significant potential for developing immunoassay products for clinical research and in vitro diagnostics in the near-term." 

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