Almost done with my J.P. Morgan summaries -- this will be the last focused on a specific company: nanoString. They wish to emphasize that they are becoming the company for spatial analysis of DNA, RNA and proteins in biological samples. They also want us to differentiate that space into two segments: profiling and imaging. Profiling gathers spatial information from regions of multiple cells; imaging in their lingo covers spatial techniques with single cell or subcellular localization. In both cases nanoString is betting heavily on oligo-tagged antibodies to enable deep multiplexing of protein detection to be integrated with RNA and DNA detection.
On a lighter note (well, mood-wise, not waist-wise), slides like that below really make me wish the Spatial Profiling Summit was going to be in person, as I'd drop in just to make sure they have the appropriate smoothie bar, fruit buffet and pastry station!
nanoString's legacy nCounter systems really go on that left-hand side as well; bulk measurements of a targeted set of sequence tags. GeoMx DSP is their newer product to provide spatial information, and they will soon add to it the capability to profile entire human or mouse transcriptomes. GeoMx used nCounter for early low plex assays, but now the emphasis is on reading very high plex tag sets on Illumina or other platforms. Samples for GeoMx can be fresh or FFPE and can be pre-mounted -- there's no transfer required as opposed to Visium from 10X Genomics. About 130 instruments are in the field, with about 30 of those installed in the last quarter of 2020. Roughly half of the reagent sales are for protein imaging, showing a balance of interest between proteomics and transcriptomics.
nanoString is very eager to show that an increasing number of customers are switching from low plex readout on nCounter to high plex sequencing readouts,. It's good to see a company understand that cannibalizing their existing business is really the path to much greater fields of growth -- though nCounter continues to grow its base so isn't done yet.
nanoString has also been wise (in my most humble opinion) to enable try-before-you-buy through their Technology Access Program (TAP): NanoString will run customer samples in their lab in Seattle. Nothing like data you care about to generate hunger for a new toy! Not only does it hook new users, but it gives the company valuable information about demand trends: nanoString is seeing sharp demand for the new Whole Transcriptome Atlas product that is taking demand from both the earlier Cancer Transcriptome Atlas and nCounter-based readouts.
In 2022 nanoString plans to launch their Spatial Molecular Imager (SMI), which takes the Hyb'N-Seq technology and gives it a much less fun (but more descriptive) name. GeoMx gives resolutions of 10-100 microns, whereas SMI will push for single cell resolutions of 1-10 microns and submicron, subcellular resolution. I really like the slide below, because it is a gorgeous image and it really does look like a bit of the sky snapped by Hubble, but it is in reality a melanoma slice with over 600K transcripts imaged from over 6K cells.
SMI will be a stand-alone instrument; no downstream sequencer required. Sample prep will be standard In Situ Hybridization (ISH) from FFPE or fresh frozen tissue (or organoids). The cyclic imaging chemistry is fully automated. 1000-plex targets have been demonstrated.
If you want one, how to get access to SMI? A TAP will begin in the first half of this year followed by beta access in the second half and a planned launch in the first half of 2022.
It will be fun to watch the brewing battle royale with 10X Genomics -- and perhaps various startups still building their platforms -- for spatial biology platforms. There's also a side-effect on the general high throughput sequencing market since growth in DSP use will drive additional sequencing business, but the SMI won't. So nanoString will both be feeding the sequencers and trying to snatch food from them. How that will balance out -- particularly in terms of revenue -- remains to be seen.
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