Bio-Rad has announced the winners of the Droplet Innovators Awards (DIA), a program created and sponsored by Bio-Rad to accelerate innovation using Droplet Digital™ PCR (ddPCR™) technology and drive development of new digital biology applications.
The Droplet Innovators Award winners are:
• Miguel Alcaide, PhD, Research Associate, Simon Fraser University, for a novel method of multiplex ddPCR technology using a single hydrolysis probe
• Christina Wood-Bouwens, Research Professional, Stanford University, for the use of single-color EvaGreen® ddPCR technology in detecting cancer mutations in cell-free samples
• Irene Della-Starza, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Sapienza University of Rome, for a novel application of ddPCR technology to monitor prognostic biomarkers in acute lymphoblastic leukemia
• Alessia Lai, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Milan, for developing a single-cell approach using ddPCR technology to measure HIV persistence
Award recipients receive a grant of $25,000 in ddPCR or other Bio-Rad consumable products to advance their droplet-based research. The winners were chosen for either demonstrating an innovative use of ddPCR methods or elucidating a promising new application of the technology.
“All of the applicants demonstrated a commitment to advancing research that our judges found inspiring,” said Viresh Patel, PhD, Bio-Rad Marketing Director, Digital Biology Group. “However, the work proposed by the award winners stood out as applications that have potential to transform research utilizing ddPCR technology.”
Stories behind two of the winning entries are presented below.
Miguel Alcaide’s novel multiplex ddPCR method improves performance, reduces costs for tracking cancer-associated mutations in liquid biopsy
Alcaide’s winning research enables the detection and quantification of mutations with diagnostic and prognostic value across different cancer types. Pinpointing gene mutations within certain key genes will enable physicians to better manage the care of cancer patients.
Droplet Digital PCR is a useful technology for both invasive and noninvasive (liquid biopsy) genetic profiling and real-time monitoring of solid tumors. It has been widely applied in translational research for the early detection of mutations that confer resistance to standard therapeutic intervention. A significant limitation of droplet digital PCR, however, is that tracking circulating tumor DNA often requires personalized hydrolysis-based assays. These assays, which require both mutation and wild-type probes to detect single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are costly, especially when multiple mutations need to be tracked.
Alcaide leveraged the resolution and performance of Bio-Rad’s QX200™ Droplet Digital PCR platform to design novel hydrolysis probe–based assays that permit the counting of both mutant and wild-type molecules at any given locus with a single probe. This innovative method has the potential to improve performance, reduce costs, and minimize use of clinically precious samples.
“We believe that our discovery related to the simultaneous discrimination and quantification of mutant and wild-type alleles at single base pair resolution, using a single hydrolysis probe for the first time, was a convincing demonstration of the enormous potential of droplet partitioning technology,” said Alcaide. “Our findings not only promise to strengthen multiplexing during ddPCR experiments (i.e., our ability to detect and discriminate multiple closely related DNA sequences in a single assay), but also imply significant savings in expensive reagents and clinically precious samples.”gle assay), but also imply significant savings in expensive reagents and clinically precious samples.”
Alessia Lai uses ddPCR technology in single cells to determine efficacy of cART therapy in HIV patients
Droplet Digital PCR is also powering advances in HIV research. According to award winner Alessia Lai, PhD, one of the most avidly sought goals of HIV cure research is the ability to develop assays to study the mechanisms of HIV persistence and measure the efficacy of novel therapeutic approaches, such as combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Droplet Digital PCR has become the gold standard in analyzing HIV persistence, she said. Lai plans to extend the application of ddPCR technology to single cells in order to unravel the obstacles that prevent remission after such therapy.
“Given the complexity of HIV persistence, our duplex ddPCR and single-cell approaches will be highly effective in investigating the transcriptional activity of HIV-infected cells on standard cART initiated during acute and chronic infection,” said Lai. “We hope to use the award for further development of our single-cell approaches.”
Bio-Rad offers a range of ddPCR systems and consumables, including the QX200™ AutoDG™ System, QX200 Droplet Digital PCR System, and Droplet Digital PCR Assays. These products are designed for laboratories that require ultra-high precision and sensitivity and high-throughput nucleic acid quantification.