Fluidigm has been partnering with the scientific community in recent years, cultivating international centers of excellence to make single-cell research more accessible. Our life sciences tools hold the power to fundamentally change human understanding of cancer biology, neurobiology, immunology and other pathologies. Researchers at these centers have access to the most advanced life science technologies available—no grant proposal required.
Just as creativity and innovation drive business, these centers of excellence focus on single-cell biology to promote collaboration and establish best practices to drive advancement in many fields. Each is a network of institutions collecting and sharing new scientific theories, methods and solutions, and fostering communities of discovery and contribution.
Up and running down under
In September, Australia’s first Single-Cell Genomics Centre of Excellence opened its doors in Melbourne at the Monash Health Translation Precinct in Victoria. The result of a Fluidigm partnership with Monash University (Australia’s largest), University of Melbourne, University of Newcastle and the esteemed Hudson Institute of Medical Research, the facility aims to accelerate biology breakthroughs in one of life science’s hottest growth sectors. Single-cell analysis is emerging as an integral component of stem cell R&D focusing on psychoneuroimmunology.
This new technology hub provides researchers across Australia with access to Fluidigm systems, including the C1™ for isolating and analyzing the DNA and RNA from individual cells and the Biomark™ HD real-time PCR platform for targeting up to 96 cells per run. Together the two systems are a dynamic duo enabling high-throughput single-cell mRNA sequencing, targeted gene expression, mRNA sequencing, miRNA expression profiling, targeted DNA sequencing, whole exome sequencing and whole genome sequencing. An accompanying library of 5,000 TaqMan® assays further enhances instrument resource usability.
Fluidigm spokesperson Howard High explained that when the company initially pursued the centers of excellence concept, single-cell research was still a nascent field with a marginal adoption rate.
“There were a dozen or so scientists around the world who shared our belief in single-cell research,” he said, “but it certainly wasn’t widespread yet. Fluidigm offers the advantage of working with different research centers around the globe and with individual scientists, so we act as a matchmaking clearinghouse. We’re creating forward movement and rapidly increasing the knowledge base through shared training in newly developed methodologies.”
Fluidigm CTO of Genomics Robert Jones agreed: “Collaborating with community thought leaders has propagated single-cell research on Fluidigm systems to advance biological discovery. We’re developing instrument workflows and conducting local community outreach at the centers of excellence.”
“As we’ve been publishing about these newly established methods, the market has continued growing and biological research has been steadily advancing.” Jones added that “we’ll continue to partner with universities, and we’d also like to introduce pharma and applied markets to single-cell analysis so we’ll be looking to include that aspect at upcoming centers.”
Other centers of excellence already in operation include the Swedish National Center for Single-Cell Biology, established by the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) in early 2015. The facility features six C1 systems, three CyTOF® 2 systems and a Biomark HD system, making SciLifeLab home to the world’s largest collection of single-cell technologies.
Four Swedish universities comprise the SciLifeLab, including Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University. A leading international research center for developing scientific techniques and workflows, SciLifeLab provides the Swedish research community with advanced molecular bioscience tools for health and environmental study. More than 200 research groups are associated with SciLifeLab’s two locations in Stockholm and Uppsala.
In late 2014, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, formalized collaboration with Fluidigm and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) to speed development of single cell analysis approaches for genomics data. The Single-Cell Genomics Centre (SCGC) at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus is arranging to feature onsite Fluidigm senior staff to ensure the center’s continued access to the latest equipment, workflows and methods for genomics and proteomics research. The lineup includes one of the first Polaris™ system installations for integrating cell selection, isolation, dosing, culture and molecular preparation into a streamlined single-cell analysis workflow.
In spring 2013, Fluidigm and the Genome Institute of Singapore opened the Single-Cell Omics Centre (SCOC) in Biopolis, Singapore, as the first Asian center of excellence. A significant resource for both academic and industry researchers, the SCOC is dedicated to understanding how single-cell insights can enhance future diagnoses and treatments.
The lab features next-generation genomic equipment and sequencing technologies including Biomark HD and one of the world’s first C1 installations. Researchers there initially focused on single-cell analysis, comparing solid biopsies and circulating tumor cells in the bloodstream. The SCOC also helped develop early cell handling, staining and dissociation protocols.
In 2012, the Broad Institute and Fluidigm launched the Single-Cell Genomics initiative, the world’s first research center focused on studying individual cells for pioneering stem cells and cancer biology. Located at the Broad Institute campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the lab has an agreement with surrounding area universities for jointly funding access to the center’s full set of Fluidigm single-cell tools, protocols and technologies for gene expression profiling, genetic sequencing and epigenetic analysis. There the intent is to deepen the exploration of disease triggers for cancer and other pathologies.
2016 and beyond
The single-cell centers of excellence benefit local academic institutions, Fluidigm and, ultimately, our collective greater good through breakthrough ideas and ongoing advances for existing methods.
Tumor heterogeneity, neurobiology, immunology and aging are primary disease areas for the technology, with diagnostics and immuno-engineering emerging as the fastest-growing clinical applications. Single-cell analysis is expected to play a key role in engineered T cell therapies aimed at provoking immune cells to permeate tumors, or at training T cells to recognize cancer signatures.
Watch for more announcements about Fluidigm partnerships with commercial collaborators and universities where top students are on track to become tomorrow’s innovators. Together, we’ll learn how much farther we can go by joining forces.