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NanoString Technologies Touts Interest in CosMx Spatial Biology Platform at JPM

NEW YORK – Though NanoString Technologies is still several quarters out from launching its new CosMx spatial molecular imager, the platform is already garnering considerable interest among researchers.

According to CEO Brad Gray, who presented on Wednesday afternoon at the virtual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, the company has already received at least 20 pre-orders for the system.

In addition, more than 200 researchers have downloaded a package with data from the instrument from the NanoString website, and the company has identified 100 potential sales opportunities already.

Half of the customers who pre-ordered the CosMx imager will be new to NanoString, and 45 percent of them decided to bundle the CosMx with the GeoMx digital spatial profiler. "Many were buying sight unseen," Gray said, meaning they did not participate in the CosMx technology access program, or TAP. More than half of the customers intend to use the platform for oncology research, but 20 percent will use it for neuroscience. Half were in North America, and a quarter each in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as in Asia-Pacific. The customer list includes the National Cancer Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The CosMx TAP is fully subscribed, Gray said, with 28 projects booked. Of those, 70 percent have been follow-up research from single-cell transcriptomics experiments and 40 percent are follow-up studies from GeoMx data.

Two researchers participating in the TAP told GenomeWeb about their experiences with CosMx data.

"I was very happy and impressed with the data," Quan Nguyen, a cancer researcher at Australia's University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said in an email. NanoString processed three types of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded human skin cancer tissue sections for him. "The data allow me to map cell types to their original spatial tissue context at single-cell resolution. They confirm my single-cell RNA sequencing analysis. They also add information for cell-cell interaction analyses," Nguyen said.

Jacob Estes, an immune system researcher at Oregon Health & Science University who had not used NanoString products before, said in an email that he was also pleased with his TAP results. The data showed 1,000 targeted host cell genes at single-cell or subcellular resolution, as well as eight virus-specific simian immunodeficiency genes. CosMx "has the sensitivity to distinguish individual viral particles trapped and retained on follicular dendritic cells within B cell follicles of lymph nodes, as well as productively infected CD4 T cells," he said.

"This capability opens the door to ask fundamental questions about the transcriptomic profile of infected cells as well as the cells interacting with the infected cells in their cellular immune neighborhoods," Estes said.

Spatial biology, in general, continues to accelerate growth for the Seattle-based company, according to Gray, as it drove 60 percent of all orders.

On Monday, NanoString released preliminary 2021 revenues of approximately $144 million, up 29 percent year over year, and fourth quarter product and service revenues of $42 million, up 18 percent.

GeoMx revenues were up 49 percent in 2021 over the prior year, while nCounter revenues were up 20 percent. Fourth quarter GeoMx revenues were approximately $18 million, up 48 percent year over year, while nCounter revenues were $24 million, up 2 percent.

The firm placed 30 GeoMx systems in Q4 and 145 in the year, increasing its installed base to 255 instruments at year's end. Total instrument orders grew 33 percent year over year to more than 285.

Gray described the nCounter business as "steady," but acknowledged the firm wanted to do better on consumables sales, which have lagged during the COVID-19 pandemic. He suggested that the suppressed revenues are in part attributable to lower activity among biopharma customers — only 65 percent of pre-pandemic activity levels — due to slow recovery of oncology clinical trials.

In 2022, Gray said to look out for a new cloud-based spatial biology data portal in the third quarter. The platform will offer tools for image analysis, global collaboration, scalable computing and data storage, data visualization, and artificial intelligence and machine learning support.

Already, the company has launched new products or options for GeoMx, including fully-customizable RNA panels across mammalian species and co-detection of RNA and protein expression from the same slide. NanoString also launched an automated workflow that integrates Leica's Bond RX autostainer and prepares up to 30 slides in one day.

With the CosMx launch slated for shipment across the globe in Q4, NanoString is planning to release beta systems in Q2. While some peer-reviewed literature could be available this year, seeing it in 2023 would be a "safer bet," Gray said. At the upcoming Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference, about 15 abstracts will include CosMx data, he noted.