NEW YORK – With the recent release of its new spatial biology platform, Bruker subsidiary Canopy Biosciences looks to target high-throughput applications like clinical trial work.
The St. Louis-based firm launched its CellScape system earlier this month, a next-generation version of its ChipCytometry technology. According to Thomas Campbell, group product manager at the company, the new platform will help it make further inroads into areas like clinical trials in immuno-oncology and autoimmune disorders.
CellScape offers improved resolution, throughput, and ease of use compared to the original ChipCytometry system, Campbell said.
The launch comes as Bruker prepares to ramp commercialization efforts at Canopy, with Bruker President and CEO Frank Laukien noting on the company's recent Q4 2022 earnings call that it is shifting from a previous emphasis on R&D to building out Canopy's commercial teams.
Laukien noted that Bruker invested heavily in Canopy in 2021, yielding what he said was "moderate growth," but that the company was anticipating a "significant" commercial ramp beginning in the second half of 2022. The new CellScape system will be the centerpiece of that activity.
Canopy was founded in 2016, largely as a vehicle for commercializing technologies developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. The company primarily focused on its services business, offering a range of proteomic and genomic methods. In 2019, Canopy acquired German firm Zellkraftwerk and its ChipCytometry technology, which allows for multiplexed protein imaging with subcellular resolution. Bruker acquired Canopy in 2020.
Canopy's ChipCytometry technology works by fixing target cells in microfluidic chips, where they are stained with an antibody to a protein marker of interest and analyzed using fluorescence microscopy. The cells can then be photobleached and stained with another antibody, allowing for multiplexed, sequential biomarker detection.
The platform is one of a number of spatial proteomics platforms to come to the market in recent years, competing with the likes of Fluidigm's mass cytometry-based Hyperion, IonPath's multiplexed ion beam imaging instrument, and Akoya Biosciences' PhenoCycler-Fusion platform.
Campbell said the CellScape platform offers several features that distinguish it from competing platforms.
One feature is the ability to use antibodies sourced from traditional providers, without requiring modification with any proprietary chemistries, like the metal tags used by Fluidigm and IonPath.
"We're just using standard, fluorescently labeled antibodies, which you can source from a variety of different vendors, as opposed to some proprietary conjugation scheme," he said.
This feature is particularly appreciated by the company's academic customers, Campbell said.
"They have a host of standard immune markers that they are really interested in, but then they combine that with few markers that are specific to their particular line of research," he said. "Being able to leverage whatever in-house expertise they have around particular antibody clones, without having to conjugate them with some proprietary [molecule], that is something they really like."
Canopy offers several antibody panels tailored to different research areas that Campbell said many customers start with before customizing with their own reagents. He added that the company has validated hundreds of antibodies as part of its service business and that it shares that information with customers of its instruments, so they can purchase those reagents from Canopy or another party.
He said that researchers typically multiplex around 20 to 30 proteins in a single experiment on Canopy's platform but that internally, the company has run up to a 75-plex and could in theory run higher plexes.
Another feature Canopy has highlighted is the ability to store samples for several years after running a ChipCytometry experiment and then reinterrogate them as new questions arise or new data suggests new paths of investigation.
Campbell said this was particularly attractive for researchers working with cell suspensions, where the typical alternative for analysis is flow cytometry, "which is pretty much going to destroy your sample."
Especially with regard to the company's service business, this ability to store and reinterrogate cells "is the differentiating factors in a lot of cases for certain customers," he said.
Campbell said that while Canopy does not plan to shed its service business, it has focused much of its attention on instrument sales since being acquired by Bruker.
"Bruker brings a lot of experience with designing, developing, manufacturing, and distributing instruments, so that is definitely a big help for us," he said.
With the launch of the CellScape platform, Canopy is substantially boosting its technology's throughput. Campbell said the new system will be able to analyze between eight and 16 samples a day, assuming 20-plex to 30-plex experiments and sample sizes of 10 to 20 square millimeters. Canopy is also offering an optional configuration on the CellScape instrument called FalconFast that quadruples that throughput. The FalconFast mode delivers lower resolution than the standard mode — 400 nanometers per pixel versus 185 nanometers per pixel — but both resolution figures are improvements over the original ChipCytometry platform, Campbell said.
Other spatial proteomics firms, most notably Akoya, have also recently moved to provide high-throughput options. Akoya's Fusion platform can run in a high-throughput mode that can measure up to six proteins per sample in around 100 samples per week, while its PhenoImager HT system can measure up to six proteins per sample in around 300 samples per week. By the end of the year, the company plans to release assays on the Fusion that can measure 100 proteins per sample in 30 samples per week.
This move to increase throughput is in part driven by the desire among companies in the space to pursue the clinical trials market, where technologies must be able to analyze large cohorts of patients.
"I think [throughput] has been one of the main limitations of high-plex spatial biology across the board, especially in the clinical space," Campbell said.
Canopy has a number of ongoing pharma collaborations through its service business, he said, citing Bristol Myers Squibb as one of its customers but declining to name others.
Campbell also declined to say how many ChipCytometry and CellScape instruments Canopy has sold but said it had "grown our installed base significantly" since it acquired Zellkraftwerk.
The company and the CellScape release are part of a broader move by Bruker into spatial omics. The company has long been a leader in imaging MALDI mass spectrometry technology, though Campbell said the two technologies attract distinct customer bases. Researchers with a mass spec background typically gravitate toward MALDI, he said, and those with an imaging background are more likely to take up ChipCytometry.
Bruker was also the majority investor behind last year's launch of spatial genomics startup Acuity Spatial Genomics.
"You can see at a macro level that Bruker is definitely making a push into the spatial biology market, and I think we're a big part of that," Campbell said.