Recently, we have become almost familiar with the term “RNA”, since it is used extensively in the media regarding the vaccine against Covid. But what is RNA? It is an essential molecule ubiquitous in biological systems – even more than DNA. A better understanding of RNA biology is set to have a fundamental impact on future medicine, including new types of biomarkers and better drugs.
RNA sequencing is now widely used in the academic market for fundamental research studies, but its application to more translational areas such as biomarker discovery and drug development remains difficult, because the current process is time-consuming, expensive and laborious.
The technology developed by Alithea Genomics intends to solve this by proposing a novel technique called "Bulk RNA Barcoding followed by sequencing" (BRB-seq) which can prepare thousands of RNA samples for sequencing, all in a single tube. The fundamental difference between the sample preparation in BRB-seq and standard RNA-seq is simple: standard RNA-seq sample preparation constitutes a long series of manual operations and enzymatic reactions, which need to be performed individually one by one for every sample. On the other hand, with BRB-seq, samples are processed individually only during the very first reaction of the workflow. Following this “tagging” step, all samples can be pooled together and processed in one single tube for the remained of the workflow.
The process provides R&D platforms with highly comprehensive and relevant usable data, making biobank analysis and drug screening efforts more efficient. The field of possibilities is infinite and suggests the potential of democratising this process in the future. Co-founders Riccardo Dainese and Daniel Alpern explain: “Overall, our product portfolio is tailored to three main customer segments: academic research labs, hospital biobanks as well as pharma and biotech companies”. After launching the first service in May 2020 and the first kit in May 2021, Alithea has rapidly increased its product portfolio, which now includes a wide selection of 15 different kits and four different service types. The startup’s customer base is spread across Switzerland, Europe, and North America.
After receiving a Tech Grant in 2018 and a Tech Seed loan in 2021, Alithea Genomics has just benefitted from FIT’s renewed support. “This Tech Growth loan will be an instrumental bridge between our Seed and Series A financing rounds” say Alithea’s co-founders. More specifically, with the help of the CHF 500’000 loan, the start-up aims to bring two new ground-breaking products to the market.