Spatial Biology Multiomics: BioChain’s Investment in the Future Pt. 2
A Conversation with Dr. Rikita Gakhar, Ph.D. Application Scientist, BioChain Institute Inc. and Dr. Vidya Sundaram, VP of Business Development
The Birth of Spatial Biology
Q: Is spatial biology the natural outcome of studying diseases such as cancer?
A: Rikita: “As sequencing technologies became more advanced, I do feel it was a natural progression. Biology is so complex, and we’re still skimming the surface. But it is important to note that the technologies that came before it are not redundant. The utilization of various technologies including single-cell sequencing and spatial in conjunction leads to comprehensive data analysis. It is mindblowing.
It’s really fun to see how new biomarkers are discovered in this process. These pictures are also colorful and so bright — we haven’t seen these aspects of biology before. The combination of technologies is what makes this so powerful.”
Q: So, which insights are spatial unlocking for you and your peers?
A:Rikita: “I feel like it’s endless. It’s as much as you can imagine, or wish to explore. You talk about host-pathogen interactions. You talk about cancer biology, from early discovery studies to therapy response studies. The options go as far as your imagination is capable.”
Q: And how are your peers responding to the capabilities of spatial?
A:Vidya: “These technologies are fairly new and dynamically evolving. The cost and the amount of data generated can be overwhelming for someone who is new to the field. The data is so vast, when you look at it, it is easy to get lost and lose focus from the primary question one is asking. At the same time it is highly useful to generate more research questions and hypotheses. People are excited about it. This is helping the scientific community to unravel biology at a rapid pace. This is the future!
Q: What does the advent of spatial biology mean for BioChain in particular?
A:Vidya: “BioChain has been around for nearly 30 years as a biospecimen supplier. With a pathologist in-house, we do have the expertise to do spatial biology assays and workflows. We can section and do H&E section staining. Then there is the molecular part, the sample prep, and NGS.
With Spatial Biology, we are leveraging our existing strengths in histopathology and molecular biology to be pioneers in something we believe will change the way we see biology.
We also just wanted to become an early player — we saw the potential. We didn’t want to wait.”
Q: You have also built very strategic partnerships with service providers for spatial — why was that a priority?
A: Vidya: “We are going with our strengths. Computational/ bioinformatics part is something we don’t have expertise in and we are building partnerships for bioinformatics deep-dive expertise. We are partnering with 10x Genomics because we can do the 10x Genomics Visium Spatial Gene Expression part and then comes the Xenium In Situ Platform, which also leverages our histology core expertise. People are not just interested in spatial — they are interested in single-cell spatial resolution, too. They want to peer into each room (cell) in a home and see what is happening in each room, and in the home (tissue) as a whole.
They want to look at each cell and see which gene is working, activated, expressing, and find the information at a cellular and sub-cellular level. When they are looking at cancer, if there is a neighborhood of cells already built, disruption can be addressed and fixed. Immunobiology is bringing in drugs that are going to target immune cells.
And this is where the neighborhood analysis really becomes critical, to understanding the patients who respond to a certain type of immune drug — or any drug — and those who don't. Why are the cells behaving a certain way? What types of genes are being expressed, or not expressed? Pharma is really interested in this for obvious reasons. It ultimately helps with precision medicine.
Rikita: Many cancer subtypes are currently being treated in a certain fashion. For example, early-onset colorectal cancer versus late-onset colorectal cancer. They are very diverse, but they're being treated in the same fashion. However, these spatial biology studies can give us insight into — not only early diagnostics — but also early therapeutic intervention.
If we can identify the differences between patients early on, we can provide them with different treatments in the very beginning. Rather than going into a treatment procedure and then finding out that the patient is not responding to that particular treatment because the biology of this patient is very different from the other patient who WAS responding.
Vidya: There are also tremendous potential advances in the fields of embryology, developmental biology, and neurobiology. Looking at Alzheimer's tissues and Parkinson's tissues is also very exciting.”
Q: Why are BioChain’s spatial services so unique?
A:Vidya: “The data we are seeing is so powerful. The barriers are cost, and capabilities, both of which BioChain is uniquely positioned to help with.
Not only can we take on a project of virtually any size, we can support all of the needs that come with spatial work. We can do it in-house, we have the bioinformatics analysis partnerships, and we have pathologists. Our service provider roster is unmatched. And for pilot projects, we are happy to work with customers in terms of cost. If you’re unsure of which spatial service you need in order to answer your research question, we’re here for consultations and project design, too.”
Learn more about BioChain’s spatial biology services and our roster of spatial service providers here.
Contact BioChain for help with your spatial projects.