Hi Colm, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. First, can you quickly introduce yourself and your company Assay Genie? How did it all start?
Sure! I’m Colm Ryan PhD, co-founder and CEO at Assay Genie. I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug at the very tender age of 10 when I opened my first business – a candy shop in my parent’s bar! After that I fell in love with business and coupled with my passion for science, starting a life science business was a dream of mine. So, after completing my post-doctoral research in France and having worked in sales and marketing, I realized the need for a new kind of assay company – one that makes scientists smile through innovative products, quirky marketing and great interactions with our team! In March 2017, we opened our doors for the first time and over the last 4 years we have launched over 50,000 ELISA, antibodies, assays and proteins. We have been very fortunate to have provided scientists from Boston to Beijing with the tools they require to make the discoveries of tomorrow.
Now that we have talked about the beginnings, I would like to know more about your plans going forward. In January 2021 you launched a new genomics product line. Could you explain which products you developed to improve the cloning workflow?
As we are passionate about pushing the boundaries of innovation, we decided to launch a small range of very powerful tools for genomics research. The powerhouse that drives most of this technology is our Genie Fusion Ultra High-Fidelity DNA Polymerase, which from our analysis, has x53 fold greater fidelity than conventional Taq and greater than all leading competitors on the market. This enzyme has been transformative for us and given us the opportunity to create our GenieClone Site-Directed Mutagenesis Kits. These kits can create 2-5 discontinuous mutations on the same plasmid in ~3 hours by combining the power of Genie Fusion Ultra High-Fidelity DNA Polymerase and our incredible GenieClone DNA Assembly Cloning Kit! The latter uses ligation-free, recombination-based technology that enables the rapid and seamless cloning of any fragment into any vector in a highly efficient manner without the need for restriction enzymes. By coupling this with Genie Fusion and using a clever primer design strategy, you have a super powerful mutagenesis system. Not satisfied with this, we also launched a TA/TOPO kit as well as MycoGenie Mycoplasma Detection and Removal Kits which probably straddle the interface of genomics and cell biology.
But cloning is a competitive market. How do you compare to your competitors?
Yes! It is a very crowded market if you think only about the traditional “cut-and-paste” cloning technologies. However, our ligation-free, recombination-based technology enables the rapid and seamless cloning of any fragment into any vector in a highly efficient manner without the need for restriction enzymes. That said, some of the closest competitors include Gibson assembly type methods but we have made huge advances with the buffer systems and enzymes to create a far more efficient technology. And, even better, at a fraction of the cost!
Figure: The amplification fidelity of Genie Fusion Ultra High-Fidelity DNA Polymerase is 53-fold superior to Taq DNA Polymerase and 6-fold higher than that of Pfu, which is significantly superior to other products. This figure shows a comparison of amplification fidelity among various polymerases detected by a Lacl Assay.
Impressive! Better performance at a lower price is certainly a great argument.
Indeed and that’s what we aim to do at Assay Genie with every product we provide!
You also developed kits for mycoplasma detection and elimination. What is mycoplasma and why is testing for it important?
That’s a great question and I'm glad you asked. Mycoplasma is a type of bacteria. The primary difference between mycoplasma and other bacteria is the lack of cell wall and flexible membrane. The size of mycoplasma bacteria is typically 0.15-0.3 µm. Its small size is the primary reason for mycoplasma escape through filtering systems in cell culture facilities. These organisms are resistant to most antibiotics commonly employed in cell cultures such as such as penicillin and streptomycin. Mycoplasma testing is required to detect the presence of mycoplasma contamination in biopharmaceutical laboratories. Mycoplasma contamination is one of the main problems in cell culture. If undetected, mycoplasma contamination can have significant effects on the quality and reliability of your cell culture preparations.
Can you give us an example where a routine check would be recommended?
Regular mycoplasma testing and control procedures help avoid the costly consequences of a cell culture contamination and ensure safe biopharmaceuticals and reliable scientific results.
There are a lot of different mycoplasma species. Are there differences in species distribution and does your kit detect all variants?
The MycoGenie Rapid Mycoplasma Detection Kit can detect up to 28 mycoplasma species, including 8 of the most common species associated with cell culture contamination. It is suitable for mycoplasma detection in a wide range of suspension and adherent cells including CHO, Vero, hybridoma, Sf9, HEK293 and many more.
What is the advantage of the mycoplasma detection kit over PCR testing?
The MycoGenie Rapid Mycoplasma Detection Kit actually employs LAMP technology to detect mycoplasma. However, our kit offers distinct advantages over PCR. Our assay is super simple coming with a buffer & enzyme that only requires incubation for 1 hour at 60°C to detect mycoplasma. Best of all, if mycoplasma is present, a blue color develops so you can check by eye if your culture is contaminated. This compares to multiple hours of preparation and analysis for qPCR methods.
How can a mycoplasma contamination be prevented and how can the detection kit support me here?
This is a difficult one! As the last few years have shown, you oftentimes cannot control nature. However, proper aseptic culturing techniques are key. As a failsafe to contamination, we also decided to launch a MycoGenie MycoPlasma Elimination Kit. This technology allows scientists to remove mycoplasma from cultures while preserving the integrity of the existing and precious cells.
Thank you for the interview Colm.