The Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), an institute under the umbrella of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and Fluidigm Corporation (NASDAQ:FLDM) today announced the establishment of the first research center in Asia exclusively dedicated to accelerating the understanding of how individual cells work, and how diagnosis and treatment might be enhanced through insight derived from single cells. The GIS-Fluidigm Single-Cell 'Omics Center (SCOC) is expected to act as a focal point for collaborative efforts among single-cell genomics researchers across the region.
The SCOC will be a visionary academic-industry partnership designed to provide integrated analytics for single-cell genomic applications to the region's researchers. This interdisciplinary center will bring together molecular and cell biologists and provide them with genomics and genotypic data for their assessment of biological pathways, disease mechanisms and the characterization of healthy and diseased tissues.
The center will provide single-cell analytics across a diverse collection of stakeholders such as drug discovery firms, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, academia and clinics. The SCOC is targeted to provide single-cell infrastructure across Singapore and Asia that will engage various disciplines in an adaptive multi-source platform.
An example of one of the early projects that the SCOC will tackle is defining early embryonic cellular state spaces using single-cell transcriptomics through mRNA sequencing. This project will be led by GIS Senior Group Leader Dr. Paul Robson. The measurement of the transcriptome at the single-cell level is the most accessible method to define cell states with digital gene expression patterns providing the state space coordinates. This project aims to define a minimal set of signaling and regulatory genes capable of defining the attractor and transitional cellular states spaces in existence early in human development.
The SCOC will be housed in dedicated laboratory space at GIS facilities in Biopolis, Singapore. It will feature the full capabilities of Fluidigm's new C1™ Single-Cell Auto Prep System and the Fluidigm BioMark™ HD System for gene expression analytics and validation. In addition, the center will have access to various NGS capabilities for sequencing.
GIS is one of the world's premier centers for human genetics studies, genomic discovery, and the pursuit of integrating technology, genetics and biology towards the goal of individualized medicine. Drs. Paul Robson and Bing Lim, GIS Senior Group Leader and Associate Director, Cancer Stem Cell Biology, will oversee the initial projects run through the SCOC.
GIS Executive Director Prof Ng Huck Hui said, "GIS has identified Single-Cell Genomics as one of our new research frontiers. We are set up to build a repertoire of new research capabilities for single-cell analyses. Our initial collaboration with Fluidigm has borne fruit with the publication of a landmark paper by Dr. Paul Robson. This larger and very important collaboration will see an even greater synergy between the technologies from GIS and Fluidigm."
"With the creation of the SCOC, we assemble a strong multidisciplinary consortium of academia and industry, and an interdisciplinary team of senior scientists, engineers and informatics specialists with very deep knowledge and skills in analyzing cellomics and genomics information. This will create a platform for information-sharing in a collaborative manner designed to deliver fast execution from concept to results," said Dr. Michael Rossbach, Head of the GIS Office of Business Development.
"The Single-Cell 'Omics Center is a major boost to the emerging, burgeoning field of single-cell analysis and we are thrilled to be part of it together with GIS," said Gajus Worthington, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fluidigm. "GIS has a track record of publishing breakthroughs based upon single-cell research, so this center can act as an accelerant for more new science. In addition, we expect the SCOC will stimulate more single-cell genomics research throughout Asia," Worthington concluded.
The SCOC's most relevant applications are associated with life science research, bioprocesses, diagnostic and therapeutic clinical developments. The focus of the SCOC will be on single-cell analytics for biologics research and development, biomarker discovery, drug targeting, molecular diagnostics, pathway modeling, cellular and toxicity studies, pharmaceutical research and development, agricultural research and development, industrial biotechnology, and academic, clinical and basic research.
Researchers have long known that heterogeneity exists among cells in tissue samples and other populations, but this variability is masked by averaging data across pooled cell samples. Fluidigm's microfluidic chips and high-throughput instruments have made single-cell studies feasible by converting cellular heterogeneity from a source of background noise to a source of information enabling cutting-edge discoveries.
There has been an upsurge in single-cell research and Fluidigm technology is in a leadership position in supplying tools to single-cell genomic researchers.
Fluidigm equipment is currently being installed at the Center and first projects are underway.