Jumpcode Genomics, a local genome technology company, has partnered with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to help sequence and examine the genomic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The collaboration will give researchers the opportunity to examine the specificity of Jumpcode’s metagenomic diagnostic against standard focused PCR-based testing for analyzing COVID-19 samples and possible co-infections that were not revealed through PCR testing.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of our lives in unprecedented ways. Yet there is still much to be learned about the point of infection and how it spreads,” said Yaron Hakak, Ph.D., CEO of Jumpcode Genomics.
The San Diego company’s CRISPRclean technology implements CRISPR-Cas9 to broadly sequence genomes while also removing uninformative molecules from the sequencing analysis.
“TGen scientists have been leading some of the most innovative research into COVID-19 testing, diagnosis, and treatment,” Hakak said. “In addition, TGen is responsible for the majority of state sequencing testing in Arizona, and we’re proud to collaborate with them on this metagenomic project. The knowledge gained from these efforts may help public health professionals mitigate the impact of new strains of COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics.”
The partnership offers Jumpcode the opportunity to work with a top tier research institute as TGen is looking at new methodologies that can fill the gap of how researchers are currently investigating COVID-19 infections, Hakak said.
TGen is a nonprofit research organization based in Phoenix, Ariz. and is affliated with the City of Hope, a world-renowned research center. TGen focuses on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases by advancing research toward actionable solutoins.
Hakak explained that the challenge with PCR testing is that there are limits to the results — this technology is only looking for whether the COVID-19 virus specifically is present in the sample. Therefore, this kind of analysis alone would not detect co-infecting pathogens or show how a patient’s body is reacting to the infection.
Through metagenomic sequencing, the CRISPRclean technology platform allows researchers to “look at sequence present in a more unbiased fashion,” Hakak explained.
“What we are looking to do is remove the molecules that provide that uninformative sequencing information,” he said.
According to Nicholas Schork, Ph.D., TGen distinguished professor and director of TGen’s Quantitative Medicine and Systems Biology Division, “genomic sequecing of SARS-CoV-2 can play a vital role in diagnosing infection, identifying new variants of the virus and related viruses, and tracking the spread of existing strains, as well as informing public health efforts to prevent future infectious disease outbreaks.”
“Using Jumpcode’s CRISPRclean technology for enhancing metagenomic sequencing, we’re able to not only detect a SARS-CoV-2 infection, but also any co-infections, and/or associated human host responses to infection,” Schork said.
In San Diego County, a total of 19,770 new tests were logged, and the percentage of positive cases over the past seven days was 4.6%, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency on Sept. 14.
A Year of Growth
Jumpcode Genomics was founded in 2016 by Keith Brown who serves as chief technical officer. The company exited stealth mode last September and over the course of the year, it has been on a trajectory of growth.
“Today, we’re producing products for research use, tomorrow our intention is to launch or enable the launch and commercialization of products for clinical utility,” Hakak said as he explained the potential broad applications of the platform. “The technology itself can be leveraged for research, applied markets and clinical settings. This year, we’re focusing on the academic and research institutions, as well as key commercial opportunities.”
Earlier this year, the company secured $21 million in Series B funding with investors incuding major life science venture firms Baird Capital, Arboretum Ventures and LYZZ Capital. Jumpcode has raised $27 million in total funding to date.
The company also signed a multi-year lease for an approximately 9,000 square foot lab and office facility in the UTC area. This will also support Jumpcode’s growing team as the company has increased its headcount from 5 to 27 employees in a year, Hakak said.
CEO: Yaron Hakak, Ph.D.
HEADQUARTERS: La Jolla
BUSINESS: A genome technology platform company focused on improving the understanding of human biology.
NOTABLE: The company has raised $27M in Series B funding to date.
CONTACT: Twitter: @JumpcodeG