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Watchmaker Genomics, Molecular Loop Partner for SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance Assays

NEW YORK – Protein engineering company Watchmaker Genomics and assay developer Molecular Loop have partnered to commercialize genetic tests for pathogen surveillance, the firms said on Thursday.

Boulder, Colorado-based Watchmaker will contribute its expertise in computational biology, high-throughput enzyme engineering, and large-scale enzyme production while Molecular Loop, based in Newton, Massachusetts, will provide molecular inversion probe (MIP)-based assays.

"We believe that our collaboration will result in broader access to a high-performance, customizable assay platform that can support applications in precision medicine, infectious disease, and biomarker discovery," said Trey Foskett, cofounder and CEO of Watchmaker, in a statement.

The MIP assays use redundant probe tiling and a streamlined workflow to eliminate the need for traditional shotgun library preparation, according to the firms, and combine the sensitivity and specificity of hybridization-based target enrichment with the ease and scalability of amplicon-based assays. The technology was initially developed by Good Start Genetics and acquired by Molecular Loop from Invitae in 2018.

Molecular Loop has already launched a SARS-CoV-2 research panel in collaboration with Watchmaker, a sequencing assay that is robust to strain variation.

"Partnering with Watchmaker Genomics allowed us to incorporate customized enzyme formulations and quickly scale up manufacturing to meet the ever-increasing demand from our customers performing critical viral surveillance work," said Eric Boyden, cofounder and head of R&D and innovation at Molecular Loop.

Watchmaker recently also partnered with Twist Bioscience to develop high-throughput sequencing assays for tumor profiling, inherited disease diagnostics, liquid biopsies, and minimal residual disease monitoring.

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