French biotech Biomillenia SAS (Romainville) is developing a lab-on-a-chip that can screen millions of strains of bacteria in a fraction of the time it takes for traditional methods. This technology can identify previously unculturable strains for use in agriculture, animal health, or microbiome-based therapies.
The company’s mission is to use lab-on-a-chip technology to culture and screen up to 30 million strains of microbes in one day, says Labiotech.eu. Eventually, the company hopes to find useful bacterial strains that could form treatments for skin, digestive and immune conditions. Bacteria come in many shapes and sizes, forming vast ecosystems across the planet. There is lots of untapped potential in these ecosystems, with microbial strains that could be useful for therapies or industrial applications hiding in the masses. The trick is just being able to identify and grow these useful strains.
“The vast majority of microbes living in diverse environments, such as in or on the human body, or in soil or water, cannot be efficiently cultured under laboratory conditions with today’s methods,” Dirk Löffert, the CEO of Biomillenia, told Labiotech. “This is also referred to as the dark matter of the microbiome.”
Biomillenia has designed a lab-on-a-chip that takes single bacteria from different samples, and isolates them in droplets of fluid so tiny that 50 million of them could fit in a single raindrop. The cells then reproduce inside these droplets over a week and then get screened to see if they have desirable genes and characteristics. The main advantage of this method is that it can culture bacteria that have been considered unculturable in traditional microbiology. The technology can also screen over 30 million water droplets per day, while traditional techniques would take years to do the same task, with far more resources spent.
Having developed its technology in collaboration with Qiagen NV (Venlo NLD), Biomillenia currently carries out high-throughput screens for client companies hunting for specific bacterial strains that could be useful in human health, food and agriculture. Biomillenia’s approach also doesn’t require any genetic modifications, which could be appealing for some clients.
Earlier this month, the company launched a service based on the tech that is able to identify interesting strains in microbiome samples. The company also has plans for developing microbiome-based treatments itself to address diseases involving an imbalance in the microbiome, which is called dysbiosis.
“In-house, Biomillenia is focused on the development of products that address dysbiosis in humans, initially addressing skin conditions,” Löffert enthused. “Within the next two years, we plan to address certain therapeutic applications that we will co-develop in partnerships.”
So who is this little French upstart Biomillenia, messing around in this “bioinformatics” market? And what do the experts predict is its growth potential for the sector?
Here’s a brief primer on bioinformatics as biotech continues to dominate the science of medicine and medical breakthroughs.
Mordor Intelligence says the Bioinformatics market was valued at USD $7.31 billion in 2017 and is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 20.75% during the forecast period, 2018-2023.
Bioinformatics is defined as the application of computational technology to gather, store, analyze, and integrate biological data. These data are used to procure information that can be applied to gene-based drug discovery and development, protein structure studies, and the determination of the therapeutic efficacy of drugs.
Increasing demand for nucleic acid and protein sequencing, increasing initiatives from governments and private organizations, accelerating growth of proteomics and genomics, and increasing research on molecular biology and drug discovery are the major factors which are leading to the growth of the market. However, lack of well-defined standards and common data formats for integration of data, and data complexity concerns and lack of user-friendly tools are hindering the market growth.
Accelerating progress of Proteomics and Genomics propels the growth of the Bioinformatics Market
With the completion of the Human Genome Project (in 2001) and the Human Proteome Project, a vast amount of data have been generated, which has given a new dimension to the profiling of proteomic and genomic analyses. The data generated out of these projects have driven the growth of the global bioinformatics market, due to the growing demand for tools and platforms for data management, data retrieval, sequence alignment, structure prediction, and other bioinformatics applications. These data have become the new face of drug discovery and biological research in the past few years.
Proteomics and genomics have made the maximum contribution to the areas of process development of recombinant protein production, genome-wide expression profiling tools, identification of disease-vulnerable populations, and drug design. Other factors driving the market include increasing government spending and the rise in R&D initiatives.
Data complexity concerns and lack of user-friendly tools hinder the growth of the Bioinformatics Market
A large amount of genomic and proteomic data, generated through various sequencing and structure prediction methods, are highly complex. The complexity of the generated data ranges from missing values to excess unwanted information. Data dissemination has been a major challenge for the growth of the bioinformatics market.
Immense studies in protein-protein interactions, multi-resolution structure prediction and molecular dynamics simulation with quantum chemical forces have fostered the development of probabilistic models and algorithms, which are required for the analysis of those studies. However, the techniques and tools that are being developed aren’t keeping pace with the bulk of the data that is being generated through various sequencing projects. This condition is restraining the growth of the bioinformatics market.
Reimbursement hurdles for the manufacturer and high-capital investment are also restraining the market growth
(Chart compliments of Mordor Intelligence)
North America to dominate the Bioinformatics Market
The bioinformatics market has been segmented on the basis of technology, application, end user, and geography. By geography, the market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East & Africa and South America. Owing to factors like the growing demand for bioinformatics across genomics and proteomics research, technological advancements, increasing research funding and the presence of a large number of market players and research institutes in the region, North America dominates the global bioinformatics market.
Key Developments in the Bioinformatics Market
January 2018: Thermo Fisher Scientific introduced Ion GeneStudio S5 Series, a line of highly versatile next-generation sequencers.
November 2017: Biomillenia collaborated with QIAGEN for the use of QIAGEN’s Microbial Genomics Pro Suite, in order to generate next-generation sequence data on microbes identified using Biomillenia’s proprietary microbiome-on-a-chip technology.
August 2016: Agilent Technologies and Eurofins Genomics collaborated to expand SureVector cloning system
January 2016: PerkinElmer had a strategic collaboration with Attivio to launch a new solution in the PerkinElmer Signals™ data discovery platform.
The major world players include:
AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES (Santa Clara CA),
AFFYMETRIX (Santa Clara CA),
ILLUMINA (San Diego),
QIAGEN (Beerse NLD),
PERKINELMER (Waltham MA),
ACCELRYS (San Diego), and
GENEVA BIOINFORMATICS, among others.
I agree with Labiotech that Biomillenia’s technology could allow client companies to access previously “out-of-reach” microbial strains in a sample, which could open up many possibilities for developing microbiome-based treatments. This could also unlock more microbial strains for use in industrial and agricultural biotech. The company’s approach is also an attempt to address one common weakness in the microbiome field, namely, that the benefits of particular strains of bacteria in disease treatments is often unsupported by science.
“Identical probiotic strains are typically ‘packaged’ for several indications, such as digestive health and immune health,” Löffert said. “In most cases, however, limited scientific evidence exists to substantiate the beneficial effect of these strains in such diverse indications.”
With its in-house treatment development, Biomillenia is joining a young, thriving ecosystem of microbiome companies. Another European company aiming to carry out rapid screens of microbiota is the Norwegian biotech Bio-Me AS (Oslo), which focuses on only the most common bacterial species. Similar to Biomillenia, the Belgian company S-Biomedic NV (Beerse) is developing treatments based on the skin microbiome, isolating microbiota strains that could reduce acne.
All of these mostly unknown names are prime candidates for acquisition and should be watched carefully by investors over the next few years as bioinformatics grows like topsy in the wide and wonderous world of biotech science. We’ll keep you apprised of the opportunities.