Life Sciences Insight

BD teams up with Labcorp to develop new companion diagnostic tests using flow cytometry

Earlier this year, BD rolled out its first flow cytometer incorporating its new CellView technology, which taps into high-throughput microscopic imaging and fluorescence scans to profile individual cells by their visual characteristics in addition to various protein biomarkers. (BD)

BD is pairing up with Labcorp to develop a new line of companion diagnostics for cancer treatments and therapies for other diseases, analyzing patients’ cells using flow cytometry technology to match them with the most beneficial drugs.

The collaboration will see the medtech giant and Labcorp’s drug development division partner up with Big Pharma companies, with the goal of offering an end-to-end solution that spans the early development of diagnostics and seeking FDA approval, through to the tests’ manufacturing and distribution.

BD’s flow cytometry-based instruments suspend a large sample of cells in liquid, before funneling them past detectors and sensors one at a time—allowing the devices to characterize each cell’s makeup in multiple ways, like checking each straw of hay to see if it’s a needle. The approach has been used by researchers for decades.

“Flow cytometry is a trusted and powerful tool for analyzing cells to better understand disease, and it has tremendous untapped potential as a companion diagnostic in oncology and other therapeutic areas,” Bill Hanlon, chief scientific officer of Labcorp Drug Development, said in a statement.

BD and Labcorp hope their tests will be able to select the optimal treatment for patients with cancer the first time and in one pass, instead of relying on multiple diagnostic technologies such as next-generation DNA sequencing and protein immunohistochemistry panels.

“In the companion diagnostic landscape, there is a clear and urgent need for high sensitivity and multiplexing capabilities, and that is where flow cytometry can help,” said BD Biosciences President Puneet Sarin. 

Earlier this year, BD rolled out its first flow cytometer incorporating its new CellView technology, which taps into high-throughput microscopic imaging and fluorescence scans to profile individual cells by their visual characteristics in addition to various protein biomarkers, at a rate of up to 15,000 cells per second.

According to the company, the FACSDiscover S8 Cell Sorter is designed to generate more than 1,000 times the amount of research data compared with traditional flow cytometry methods.

Fluorescence-based cell sorting technology has been available for decades and identifies different types of cells based on the total of proteins they have expressed, after tagging the sample with specific molecular dyes that glow in different colors. 

But that approach hasn’t been able to show where and how these proteins are distributed around the cell. By adding an optical microscope, BD hopes researchers will be able to uncover more complex and unique cell types.

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