Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Welcome to a new company built around ctDNA analysis: Inivata

Inivata, is a new company spun out of Nitzan Rosenfelds research group at the CRUK Cambridge Institute (where I work). His group developed and published the TAm-seq method for circulating tumour DNA amplicon sequencing. The spin-out aims to develop blood tests measuring circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) for use as a "liquid biopsy" in cancer treatment. Inivata has been funded  by Cancer Research Uk's technology arm CRT, Imperial Innovation, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation; initial funding has raised £4million.


Inivata is currently based in the Cambridge Institute and the start-up team include the developers of the TAm-seq method: Nitzan Rosenfeld (CRUK-CI), Tim Forshew (now at UCL Cancer Institute), James Brenton (CRUK-CI) and Davina Gale (CRUK-CI).

The research community has really taken hold of cell-free DNA and developed methods that are surpassing expectations. Cell-free DNA is having its largest impact outside of cancer in the pre-natal diagnostics market. And has been shown to be useful in many types of cancer. The use of ctDNA to follow tumour evolution was one of the best examples of what's possible I've seen so far and it's been exciting to be involved in some of this work. Inivata are poised to capitalise on the experience of the founding team and I'll certainly be following how they get on over the next couple of years.

If you fancy working in this field then they are currently hiring: molecular biologist, and computational biologist posts.

This is likely to become a crowded market as people pick up the tools available and deploy them in different settings. ctDNA is floating around in blood plasma and is ripe for analysis, I expect there is still lots of development space for new methods and ultimately I hope we'll be able to use ctDNA as a screening tool for early detection of cancer.

If we can enrich for mutant alleles using technologies like Boreal or Ice-Cold PCR then detection (not quantitation) may be possible far earlier than can be achieved today.


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