ACCELERATING THE DEVELOPMENT OF GENE CONTROL

AskBio accelerate their product design thanks to IBioIC project funding.

A rapid method for testing gene therapy tools.

The success of this project has enabled a Scottish Biotech to accelerate their product design and increase productivity, supporting expansion into new areas. The project also puts the spotlight on Scotland as a hub of knowledge and innovation, attracting investment and research in biotechnology.

AskBio Europe are a groundbreaking, high growth company based just outside Edinburgh. The company was the regional winner for Scotland in Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50 of 2018, and has attracted a huge amount of investment to make it the market leader in gene control. This project, funded by IBioIC, partnered AskBio with experts in RNA sequencing at Edinburgh University to develop a new, high throughput method to improve the company’s synthetic promoters.

Automating promoter design

Promoters are sections of DNA at the start of a gene that can control whether the gene is on or off and how strong the signal is. They are like dimmer switches for genes, and AskBio have become experts in creating versions according to their exact requirements. This means that we can control the expression of genes that have gone awry, offering solutions for a diverse range of diseases from rare hereditary diseases to cancers.

In this project, the team developed a method called “high content screening” or HCS to rapidly test libraries of synthetic promoters for their effects on genes of interest. AskBio were able to create promoter libraries, which Edinburgh Genomics screened then measured the levels of activity of each promoter in the library. Using this approach, the team were able to determine which promoter was best for each gene.

A suite of powerful tools

The method was a resounding success and resulted in a vastly increased data output for the company. This changed the way the company analyses its data, allowing the design of more sophisticated and sensitive algorithms. It also allows the analysis of more complex products, expanding the repertoire that AskBio holds. The tools developed by Edinburgh University are a significant bespoke resource, which the company have incorporated into their tool kit.