Tag Archive for: Biotechnology

Dr. Carolin Dippmann and Daria Meyer from our research and development team work, among other things, with the “third-generation sequencing” method. With the help of this technology, they are examining DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) from tumors much more precisely than was previously possible.

The method has enormous advantages: epigenetic changes in the DNA, specifically DNA methylation in certain regions, tell us when healthy cells develop into cancer. And with “third generation sequencing” we can detect these changes directly.

Our goal at oncgnostics is to detect such epigenetic markers. Especially in the early detection of head and neck tumors, development is still in its infancy. In various research projects, including the OroCa-Graz study, we are working together with clinicians on a standardized screening to detect the associated diseases earlier and more reliably than before.

In the following, the two scientists explain to what extent third-generation sequencing is being used and what exactly is behind it.

How does Third Generation Sequencing work?

Part of our daily work is to screen DNA fragments for epigenetic changes, specifically DNA methylation. DNA methylation at specific base sequences indicates that the cell in question has changed.

Third generation sequencing is a method that makes these analyses faster and more effective. In addition, the method provides the DNA sequence information in very high resolution: namely, individual DNA molecules are analyzed. The biological DNA is transferred into a digital version and can be analyzed on the computer. DNA methylation, which occurs during cancer development, can be analyzed directly. And this is of particular interest to us.

The process is illustrated in a video from “Oxford Nanopore Technologies” on YouTube.

How does the method differ from previous methods?

With previous sequencing methods, we could only determine the base sequence of short DNA fragments (300 DNA bases on average). In addition, the DNA to be examined had to be copied several times in advance, very similar to the so-called PCR method explained here. In addition, the DNA had to be chemically treated to detect DNA methylation.

The Third Generation Sequencing method simplifies this process:

  • We can directly evaluate DNA molecules of up to several million DNA bases in length
  • No copies are necessary for this. Rather, we evaluate the individual DNA sequences directly
  • The speed with which we examine the sequences increases accordingly: We now collect the data in real time

What kind of data do we get?

The bottom line is that the Third Generation Sequencing method captures changes in current and records them digitally. It works like this: The DNA to be examined is placed on a surface that is under a specific voltage. Tiny pores made of proteins are embedded in this surface. During the process, the DNA migrates, always in the same direction, through these so-called nanopores. This is why the method is also called “Oxford Nanopore Technology” (ONT).

When the DNA migrates through a pore, the current intensity on the surface changes. This is due to the spatial arrangement and chemical properties of the DNA segments. Sensors measure these changes at each individual pore and transmit them to the computer connected to each. An algorithm then translates the information into the base sequence of the DNA. In the sequence recorded we also read the DNA methylation.

Are there any other advantages or disadvantages?

Since the method is still very new, it has a fairly high error rate. Currently, it recognizes only 95 percent of all sequences without errors. With other methods, the figure is 99.9 percent. Continuous developments will improve this over time. Daria Meyer’s work is part of this. She is a bioinformatician and, as part of her PhD thesis, she focuses on improving the algorithms that are essential for analyzing DNA methylation. In addition, we are constantly optimizing the process flows in the preparation of diagnostic samples. That is Carolin Dippmann’s focus in the project.

In fact, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. One of the reasons for this is that the analyzer is barely larger than a USB stick and therefore super handy. Theoretically, sequencing can be carried out anywhere, from the Arctic to the desert.

What is our future benefit from Third Generation Sequencing?

With the help of ONT sequencing, major gaps in our knowledge of the human genome (the entire DNA sequence of a human being) have already been closed. We expect further developments in this area. And we are happy contribute to improving the technology.

The biggest advantage for us is the direct readability of epigenetic changes, i.e. DNA methylation. We can analyze these directly at our facility.

The method is gaining acceptance in more and more areas of application. This is not least due to the fact that the initial equipment for starting sequencing projects is very inexpensive. Sequencing of this quality is thus much more affordable. This means that small companies like oncgnostics can also utilize this technology.

Jena, October 17, 2018 – The Thuringian molecular diagnostics company oncgnostics, which quickly and successfully closed a 750,000 Euros crowd-investing round on Seedmatch early in 2018, now announces the closing of another similarly sized round. oncgnostics has developed the cervical cancer diagnostics test GynTect®, and a private investor circle now invests together with the  current institutional investor beteiligungsmanagement thüringen (bm-t). The company will use the total investment for performing further clinical trials and for intensifying its international marketing efforts.

 

At the end of 2017, oncgnostics started a second campaign for its diagnostic test GynTect via the crowd-investing platform Seedmatch. It took only 2.5 hours until the funding reached the threshold of 100,000 EUR, and only three weeks to reach a total sum of 750,000EUR, making : it the fastest crowd-investing campaign for a life sciences company in Germany. Now this sum will be doubled by beteiligungsmanagement thüringen (bm-t), which is already a key shareholder at oncgnostics, and by a circle of private investors.

 

“oncgnostics´ GynTect test addresses a potential billion-dollar market. This investment will allow the company to build targeted sales and marketing efforts in order to better access and develop this attractive market. Additionally, the company has a compelling technology pipeline, which will be further advanced with this capital. We´re very pleased to join this investment round“, Kevin Reeder, CEO at bm-t, stated.

 

Better options for early diagnosis

GynTect clarifies early and reliably, if a patient is about to develop or even already has developed a cervical lesion that may advance to cancer. This improves the risk assessment for cervical cancer screening: on the one hand, unnecessary and overly-hasty surgeries can be avoided. On the other hand, the chance for early and successful treatment is improved. Patients also lose their anxiety about unclear results based on the current screening and instead gain fast certainty.

 

“We are very pleased that our concept of using epigenetic markers in cancer diagnostics together with the market potential of our first test GynTect convinced new investors to join oncgnostics. Their investment enables us to improve our market opportunities not only through enhanced international marketing, but also through further product developments”, Dr. Alfred Hansel, CEO of oncgnostics, says.

 

Past and future developments

The first steps for international marketing were made with an exclusive out-licensing of GynTect to a Chinese partner for the Chinese market as well as with first contracts for distributing the test in selected European countries (Portugal, Slovakia and the Czech Republic). Further strategic and distribution partnerships are now sought, especially for the US market, but also for additional European markets. In December 2017, the first patients were enrolled in a prospective clinical trial, with a three-year duration and across ten gynaecological practices and clinical centers, with the aim of further demonstrating the prognostic power of GynTect . Another trial investigating the psychological burden of women with abnormal Pap smear and/or positive HPV test results was recently completed, and its results are scheduled to be published by the end of this year.

 

Together with clinical partners, oncgnostics is developing diagnostic tests for other cancers. The Thuringian company is currently validating epigenetic markers for use in head and neck cancer, and it is also targeting tests that will help to improve timely detection of ovarian cancer.

 

About oncgnostics GmbH:

oncgnostics GmbH was founded in 2012 from a university research group at the Jena University Gynaecology Department. As a molecular diagnostics firm, the Jena start-up has specialised in the early diagnosis of cancer. The company´s tests demonstrate characteristic epigenetic changes in cancer cells, known as DNA methylations. The patented biomarkers identified with specific algorithms form the central core of the products and are the foundation of the firm´s technological assets.

 

 

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Portugal Partnership

Lisbon/Jena, April 16th 2018 – Speculum S.A. is the exclusive licence partner of oncgnostics GmbH for the screening test GynTect® in Portugal. The test is designed to further specify abnormal results in screening examinations and to help determine the best treatment approach.

 

In January, the biotech firm oncgnostics GmbH from Jena (Germany), concluded an exclusive sales partnership for the GynTect screening test in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Now, Speculum S.A. in Portugal has become the newest sales partner to obtain an exclusive licence. As a result, Portugal becomes the fourth European country where GynTect will be offered.

 

Speculum S.A. is well positioned in Portugal

The Team of Speculum S.A. in Portugal

The Team of Speculum S.A. in Portugal. Source: Speculum S.A.

 

 

 

 

 

Speculum S.A. sells a range of medical devices focused on gynaecology. The firm is very extensively networked with professionals and leading figures in the area of women’s health. In addition, LAP Porto, the largest Portuguese diagnostic laboratory in the area of women’s health, cooperates with Speculum S.A.

Moreover, the company was mainly involved in the introduction of thin-layer cytology, an improved Pap smear method, which now has over 50% of the market share in Portugal. Since GynTect can be performed based on these improved Pap smears, the prospects are very good for the market introduction in Portugal.

 

GynTect provides rapid and reliable results

GynTect, the molecular biology test developed by oncgnostics, offers an early diagnosis for patients with abnormal Pap test results or evidence of human papillomavirus infection (HPV) to determine the presence of a treatable cervical cancer precursor and the likelihood of developing cervical carcinoma. The test provides rapid and reliable results and gives affected women certain guidance about how to proceed in the face of an abnormal prior examination in the best way. GynTect substantially simplifies risk assessment in the early detection of cervical cancer: on the one hand, it helps to avoid unnecessary premature surgery, and on the other hand, it can increase the chances for successful therapeutic interventions.

 

High death rates for cervical cancer in Portugal

The morbidity rate for cervical cancer in Portugal is higher than in Germany. In Portugal, 9 of 100,000 women develop the disease, compared to 8.2 per 100,000 in Germany. In Portugal, cervical cancer is the second-most common form of cancer among women between ages 15 and 44 years, whereas in Germany, the frequency of occurrence for women of this age puts is in 3rd place. However, the difference in death rates is far greater: in Portugal, 54% of all patients with cervical cancer die of the disease, whereas in Germany, the rate is about one out of three.

“By means of early recognition of cervical cancer, effective treatment can be performed and further complications can be prevented. With GynTect, we are counting on an effective measure in the fight against cervical cancer and its sequelae”, states Antonio Ferreira, Managing Director of Speculum S.A. in Lisbon.

 

Further partnerships planned

Europe-wide CE-IVD licensing for GynTect took place in 2015, opening the way to European partnerships. In the past year, oncgnostics also concluded an exclusive licensing agreement for the Chinese market with GeneoDx, a subsidiary firm of the state-owned Sinopharm Group.

Further partnerships for the internationalisation of GynTect are in negotiation.

 

 

 

About oncgnostics GmbH:

The oncgnostics GmbH was developed in 2012 from a university research group at the Jena University Gynaecology Department. As a molecular diagnostics firm, the Jena start-up has specialised in the early diagnosis of cancer. The tests demonstrate characteristic epigenetic changes in the cancer cells, known as DNA methylations. The patented biomarkers identified with specific algorithms form the central core of the products and are the foundation of the firm.

 

 

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Medirex team in Bratislava

Jena, January 31th 2018 – oncgnostics GmbH partners with the MEDIREX Group. MEDIREX thus holds the exclusive rights for marketing the test for early and reliable detection of cervical cancer, GynTect®, for Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

 

Following their successful crowd-funding via the platform Seedmatch, oncgnostics GmbH takes the next step for internationalization: the company closed a partnership with the MEDIREX Group. The Slovak laboratory diagnostics group has more than 1700 employees, and is the biggest player in lab diagnostics, with >50% market share in the Slovak Republic. The contract has a term for three years, with option for extension.

 

GynTect gives certainty

The molecular test GynTect developed by oncgnostics helps to clarify early and reliably if a patient diagnosed with an abnormal Pap smear or/and with an HPV infection (already) has or develops a cervical precancerous lesion requiring treatment.

“With GynTect we intend to improve the quality of cervical cancer screening in the Czech and the Slovak Republic. GynTect provides fast and reliable diagnostic results and thus women who are affected, certainty how to proceed after abnormal findings from earlier diagnostic measures,“ Jozef Gavlas, CEO of MEDIREX Lab diagnostics states, said.

GynTect drastically improves the risk assessment in cervical cancer screening: on the one hand it allows to avoid hasty and unnecessary surgeries, on the other hand it increases the chance for early, successful treatment measures.

 

Cervical cancer in numbers: Germany, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic

In Germany, ca. 5000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Thus 8.2 of 100,000 women get a diagnosis annually. In the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, the disease rates are much higher, at 14.1 and 16.1 of 100,000 women annually, respectively. In all three countries, every third woman with cancer diagnosis dies.

Regular participation of women in cervical cancer screening programs, which are offered in all three countries, may contribute to significantly reduce the morbidity. HPV-induced changes may be detected early, and appropriate measures may be taken. Nevertheless only ca. 50% of all women participate regularly in the annual screening in Germany and the Czech Republic. In Slovakia, where triennial cervical cancer screening is implemented, even less than 50% participate regularly.

 

Further partnerships are planned

GynTect already has CE IVD mark for use in laboratories Europe-wide. Thus, the MEDIREX group immediately may start distribution as well as the use of the test in its own labs. CE IVD mark was received in 2015. In 2017, oncgnostics was able to close an exclusive license agreement for marketing in China with GeneoDx, an affiliate of the governmental Sinopharm Group.

Further partnerships within and outside of Europe are currently negotiated, with the aim to conclude agreements in 2018. The crowd-funding campaign, which very recently was concluded successfully, provided oncgnostics with 750,000 €, which significantly will contribute to plan, negotiate and close further agreements.

 

About oncgnostics

oncgnostics GmbH is a spin-off from the university women’s hospital Jena and was founded early in 2012. As a molecular diagnostic company, oncgnostics is specialized on cancer diagnostics. Oncgnostics tests target epigenetic changes, the so-called DNA methylations, that typically occur in cancer cells. The patented biomarkers, which are evaluated using a specific algorithm, are the core of the products and provide the basis for the company’s activities.

 

 

Contact:

oncgnostics GmbH

Dr. Alfred Hansel

Geschäftsführer

Winzerlaer Str. 2 (Bioinstrumentezentrum)

DE-07745 Jena

Tel. +49 3641 508456

pr@oncgnostics.com

www.oncgnostics.com

 

Media Agentur

Tower PR

Mälzerstraße 3

07745 Jena

Tel. +49 3641 87611-80

oncgnostics@tower-pr.com

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