Spatial Biology: Lunaphore's COMET Portfolio Becomes the First Complete and Inclusive Solution Deborah Heintze

Spatial Biology: Lunaphore's COMET Portfolio Becomes the First Complete and Inclusive Solution Déborah Heintze

By Déborah Heintze, MSBME, Co-Founder & CMO at Lunaphore

We have our COMET instruments available on the market for a year. These are fully automated, high-performing instruments. To further enhance our portfolio, we have introduced reagents and software solutions. Our goal is to provide our customers with a one-stop-shop solution.

Our aim is to ensure that everyone can have the best experience in spatial biology. We are striving to make the experience as easy as possible. To achieve this, we have introduced other products to help guide users with starting points. These panels can help users begin and we can accompany them throughout the post-processing analysis required for the images.


What was the motivation behind expanding the COMET portfolio, and how did you identify the need for a universal, end-to-end spatial biology solution?

We are always looking at the customer pain points and what is needed from each of the different labs out there. So, a lot of the pre-work involved having those discussions and understanding where we can fill the potential gaps to make our portfolio more complete.

Our goal is to guide users from the beginning to the end of the workflow and make using the instruments and the whole solution as easy as possible. To provide more information, COMET is a fully automated instrument that allows you to insert any standard slide and get virtually unlimited plexing on the same slide. You can then analyze the image with our software HORIZON or other existing platforms.

Although we have an open platform, people can leverage any antibodies they want on the platform. We also provide guidance with some starting panels, especially for people who want to have a starting point, especially in immuno-oncology. These are all the reasons why we came up with additional products in the portfolio to add building blocks and make the experience as streamlined and efficient as possible for anyone to get the best stainings and analysis.


What challenges did you encounter during the development of this expanded portfolio, and how did you overcome them?

I think one of the usual challenges is always to identify what will be truly useful for our customers and ensure that we are not spending resources or energy developing something that may be ideal but not necessarily the most beneficial for providing the best user experience in the short and medium term.

We spend a lot of time having discussions to precisely define what will provide the best return on investment for each feature we want to include in our products. As we get closer to launching these products, we also focus on ensuring operational readiness for commercialization. This includes ensuring a reliable supply chain for our panels and delivering on the promises we make to our customers.

We are always cautious to provide solutions that deliver what we promised, and this feedback from our customers has been invaluable in ensuring that we launch and deliver products properly.


What specific capabilities or features does this new portfolio offer that set it apart from other solutions in the market of Spatial Biology?

The full portfolio now includes the COMET instrument, which is a fully automated hyperplex instrument. This is the highest throughput hyperplex instrument available on the market. We've also added Spire panels, which are immuno-oncology core panels.

We differentiate ourselves by offering extremely flexible panels that serve as building blocks for experiments. There are different panels with 4-plex or 4 different markers (7, 8, and 13). There are also different sizes of these panels available. It's possible to add any antibody that people want and combine panels to use any antibody that people already have in their lab. The panel builder, a software that allows users to build their protocols virtually and then upload them onto COMET, facilitates this process. With just one click, the order of different markers that can run on your panel is set. This is a completely new approach that offers a level of flexibility that does not exist in other platforms.

With respect to the time it takes to optimize the panels, we have customers testing up to 10 or even more antibodies per week and making them work on the platform. A 20-plex panel can be obtained and run in another week. This rapidity of finding antibodies that work in one's lab and that have been used for normal HC or other types of essays, then running them on the platform, and obtaining a multiplex in no time is unprecedented. The optimization time is extremely short. We have very enthusiastic users who manage to have their panels working very rapidly with full flexibility on what markers they want to use and ultimately get interesting results for their research.

The other aspect we've added to this portfolio is HORIZON, a software specifically made for tissue analysis. It is fully integrated with COMET. Pre-trained algorithms for nuclei segmentation are available, making the entire experience as smooth as possible. This software not only generates gorgeous images but also analyzes data.


How do you anticipate that this expanded portfolio will impact the field of spatial biology and the broader scientific community?

From the users we currently have, we've already observed an unprecedented speed in their ability to generate new panels using our platform in combination with others. This is accelerating research drastically and leading to many new publications in the pipeline, as people generate new data at an extremely rapid pace.

This is just one aspect of what we're bringing to the field of spatial biology more broadly. Our solution now provides the capability to generate more markers in an extremely reproducible and reliable way. By automating all aspects of staining, imaging, and analysis, we can produce much more reliable data with a high quality of staining. This will enhance all research being conducted and enable us to identify biomarker signature panels that can be used for clinical and ultimately diagnostic purposes. This is extremely important for us and positions the COMET instrument in our portfolio as an essential tool for users not only as a discovery tool but also as a means to unlock new applications and achieve results that were previously unattainable, thanks to the instrument's automation, reproducibility, and throughput.


Can you walk us through a specific use case or example of how this technology has been utilized successfully in research or clinical settings?

We have many early users who have been using our instrument and rapidly coming up with new panels for their research, whether in translational or clinical research. For example, one user was able to develop five new panels, each with an average of 2030-plex, in just 2.5 to 3 months from scratch. This demonstrates how quickly they can create new antibodies and panels, while also ensuring biological relevance for producing data.

There are already publications based on this data, which is extremely useful to show that our instrument can rapidly produce relevant data for publication. Furthermore, these publications demonstrate how users can leverage our instrument to achieve their desired results with the data they have.


What are your plans for continuing to innovate and evolve your spatial biology solutions in the future?

We are constantly striving for innovation, so it's definitely a core aspect of our company's DNA. We have several ongoing R&D projects to explore potential new innovations to add to our portfolio. Recently, we have announced a few things and shown some exploratory applications.

For example, we have demonstrated the use of other types of reagents that could work on our platform. We have also announced that we have proof of conception data showing the successful use of fully automated multi-omics on the COMET using the same slide. These developments are a response to requests from our customers and users, and we take their input seriously as we continue to advance our research and development efforts.

This is just one aspect of what we're working on; we are always exploring different avenues of development to complement our existing portfolio.


How do you see the field of spatial biology evolving in the next few years, and how is Lunaphore positioned to lead in this space?

The field of spatial biology is evolving very quickly. We see a big trend of moving all of this into the translational and clinical space. This is where we want to be, and this is why we are coming up with a portfolio of products that would help every user move into the clinical space ultimately. That means a lot of different things at the same time. On one hand, there have to be instruments that are robust enough to provide reproducible data that would be able to bring this into the clinical setting. At the same time, we need to define the signature panels that are interesting and relevant for patient certification or for defining future therapies.

This is a trend that I see as definitely being where things are moving forward. Lunaphore is extremely well positioned with the portfolio we have now, not only in terms of automation level but also throughput and other key aspects that users in the field would be looking at to push spatial biology towards clinical applications.

It is very important for us to ensure that we have a complete offering for our customers and streamline every aspect of what a user would be doing in spatial biology. There are still aspects that need to be worked on together between us as a tool provider and our customers so that we can make sure to take those steps towards clinical and ultimately diagnostics as well.


Can you speak to any collaborations or partnerships that Lunaphore has formed in the context of this expanded portfolio and the field of spatial biology more broadly?

We are working with partners and have announced partners for the software analysis. On the tissue analysis side, we also work with some antibody suppliers. These are different types of partners with whom we want to show compatibility. It is important for us to have an instrument that is open to working with other technologies to a certain extent. This provides users with a certain level of freedom and flexibility they need to conduct their research. These are some of our important partners.

We also work with customers, whom I will call partners as well. We are collaborating with core facilities and contract research organizations (CROs) to provide these services to a larger group of spatial biology enthusiasts. This is an aspect we are strongly working on to ensure we have a wider reach, and more people can access our tools and technology.


How do you ensure that your products and solutions are accessible and affordable for researchers and institutions around the world?

We have a lot of discussions with our prospective customers and users to truly understand what the right value points are for both them and us. It's crucial for us to make our offerings as accessible as possible, which is why we strive to be open and flexible to some extent. Affordability is one aspect, but it's also important to consider how much they can use our instruments and the flexibility it offers. We want to ensure that we have the most comprehensive offering on the table. We conduct these discussions with partners, customers, and users to ensure that we're on the right track and that everyone is satisfied at the end of the day.

Final thoughts about the Lunaphore COMET Portfolio in Spatial Biology

I believe I've touched on some important points here. One thing I really want to emphasize is that as a company, our goal with the COMET Portfolio and suite of products is to achieve a similar level of standardization and flexibility as seen in anatomic pathology. In that field, standard glass slides are used with validated antibodies from suppliers, and then run as an IHC test. The resulting slide can be used for downstream analysis and other purposes as needed.

The key difference with our approach is that instead of a single marker IHC or IF, we are able to perform high HyperFlex staining on the same slide while still retaining the advantages of starting with a standard glass slide and any antibody of choice. This enables us to perform downstream analysis and even add additional staining later on. We have already collected data showing that users can reuse the same slide for transcriptomics, IHC, H&E, or any other required analysis. The resulting slide can be analyzed using our proprietary software solutions or those of our partners, which have already shown excellent performance.


What is Spatial Biology in Cancer Research?

Spatial biology is an emerging field of research that investigates the relationships between the spatial organization of cells, tissues, and organs and their biological function. In the context of cancer research, spatial biology is becoming increasingly important for understanding the complex dynamics of tumor growth and metastasis.

One of the key applications of spatial biology in cancer research is the development of spatially resolved transcriptomics. This approach involves mapping the expression of thousands of genes across tissues at the cellular level, providing a detailed understanding of the molecular landscape of tumors. By analyzing the spatial distribution of different cell types within a tumor, researchers can identify distinct subpopulations of cells with unique molecular characteristics, providing insights into the underlying mechanisms of tumor progression and response to therapy.

Spatial biology is also being used to investigate the tumor microenvironment, which includes the surrounding cells and tissues that interact with cancer cells. The tumor microenvironment plays a crucial role in tumor growth and metastasis, and understanding its spatial organization can provide insights into how different cell types interact with each other and with the extracellular matrix. This knowledge can be used to develop new therapeutic approaches that target specific components of the tumor microenvironment.

Another area of research in spatial biology is the development of spatially resolved proteomics. This approach involves mapping the distribution of proteins within tissues at high resolution, providing insights into the spatial organization of cellular signaling pathways and protein interactions. This approach is particularly useful for identifying proteins that are localized to specific sub-cellular structures, such as the cell membrane or nucleus, and for understanding how these structures contribute to tumor growth and metastasis.

In conclusion, spatial biology is an important and rapidly growing field of research in cancer biology that is helping to unlock new insights into the complex dynamics of tumor growth and metastasis. By combining advanced imaging technologies with high-throughput genomic and proteomic approaches, researchers are gaining a deeper understanding of the spatial organization of tumors and the surrounding microenvironment, paving the way for the development of more effective cancer therapies.


10 Key Takeaways on Spatial Biology: The COMET Portfolio from Lunaphore

  1. Lunaphore has expanded its COMET™ portfolio to include an end-to-end spatial biology solution.

  2. The new spatial biology solution is designed to improve research in cancer, immunology, neuroscience, and infectious diseases.

  3. Lunaphore's spatial biology solution includes a range of tools for sample preparation, staining, imaging, and analysis.

  4. The solution allows researchers to visualize multiple markers in the same tissue section, enabling deeper insights into the spatial relationships between cells.

  5. Lunaphore's technology is compatible with a wide range of samples, including fresh, frozen, and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues.

  6. The company's technology uses microfluidics to increase the speed and accuracy of sample processing.

  7. Lunaphore's spatial biology solution is fully automated, making it easy to use for researchers with different levels of expertise.

  8. The solution also allows researchers to save time and reduce the cost of experiments.

  9. Lunaphore's spatial biology solution has been validated in a number of studies, demonstrating its effectiveness in identifying biomarkers and characterizing complex tissue microenvironments.

  10. The company plans to continue expanding its COMET™ portfolio to include more tools for spatial biology research.


Déborah Heintze, MSBME - About The Author, Credentials, and Affiliations

Déborah Heintze, MSBME, is a highly accomplished professional with a Bachelor's degree in Life Sciences & Technology and a Master's degree in Bioengineering from EPFL. She furthered her research experience at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in Boston (USA) where she developed a microfluidic platform to test drugs on cardiac tissues over a period of one year.

Déborah's interest in entrepreneurship led her to join Lunaphore, where she served as a co-founder in 2013. She loves taking on challenges and firmly believes in the power of hard work and trust in the team to achieve success. As the CMO of Lunaphore, Déborah is responsible for Marketing and Product Management.

With her extensive academic background and professional expertise, Déborah is a highly respected figure in the field of bioengineering and biotechnology. She is committed to driving innovation and creating solutions that positively impact people's lives.


Lunaphore - About the Company

Lunaphore is a Swiss-based biotechnology company that develops innovative solutions for cancer research and diagnostics. The company's proprietary technology, called "Fast Fluidic Exchange", enables rapid and precise analysis of tissue samples, providing valuable insights into the cellular and molecular characteristics of tumors. Lunaphore's products include an automated tissue staining platform and a range of reagents and consumables for cancer research and diagnostics. The company's technology has the potential to significantly improve the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of cancer diagnosis and treatment, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

Spatial Biology: Lunaphore's COMET Portfolio Becomes the First Complete and Inclusive Solution Deborah Heintze

Deborah Heintze, MSBME discusses Spatial Biology: Lunaphore's COMET Portfolio Becomes the First Complete and Inclusive Solution