Technologies with impact
Know-how is valuable. At VIB, we have bundled specific expertise in core facilities, to provide our scientists with state-of-the-art technologies and equipment on a quality and scale that is beyond the capacity of individual research groups and even research centers. Furthermore, the core facilities are open to the wider scientific community, laying the foundations for collaboration and impact.
To ensure continued high-quality services, the cores are subjected to a five-yearly evaluation. In November 2019, the on-site visit took place and the cores received high praise – and future-focused recommendations – from an international, interdisciplinary panel of technology experts. The review concluded that VIB’s core program is operating at the very highest level and is recognized as a gold standard in Europe for how core facilities should be implemented and operated.
The expertise present in the different VIB Core Facilities is often complementary. Coupled with the increasing interest in single-cell studies, the VIB cores have contributed virtual service engine called Singularity. This service platform provides access to state-of-the-art flow cytometry, single-cell RNA sequencing, and advanced data processing workflows as a one-stop solution. After all, single cell work is no longer just transcriptomics- and genomics-driven but has spread out to all ‘omics’ disciplines. This clear trend prompted the cores to join forces in 2019 and start building a well-integrated multi-omics platform that should enable an individual researcher to acquire all this integrated info from one single sample.
In 2019, the VIB Screening Core launched NextGenQBio. This state-of-the-art platform is unique in Belgium and combines several cutting-edge technologies. The centralized platform connects high-throughput screening technologies with high-content imaging. This screening module is integrated with a centralized cell culture platform for automated culturing of a broad range of cell types. To accurately handle the biological data point that are generated, a package of comprehensive bioimage analysis software and IT infrastructure for data storage completes the setting. In the years to come, NextGenQBio will provide major insights into the basic biological mechanisms of complex systems and facilitate the translation of these insights into drug discovery programs.
The VIB Tech Watch initiative continues to give VIB researchers a competitive advantage since scientific breakthroughs are often preceded or paralleled by developments in the tools and technologies that enable new scientific hypotheses to be addressed. The Tech Watch team skims the market for new, emerging technologies that can have the potential to boost the research and IP output at VIB.
In 2019, the success of the Technology Innovation Lab, a Tech Watch initiative to further facilitate and de-risk the uptake of ground-breaking technologies, resulted in many collaborations with technology companies such as Mission Bio, Sphere Fluidics, Refeyn, GALT and Nanoview Biosciences. The launch of the Single Cell Accelerator in 2018 was a key driver of this, as the accelerator program is now fully operational.
The competitive advantages created by the Tech Watch initiatives have sparked significant interest in the industry and resulted in numerous new partnerships. As part of the Single Cell Accelerator program, Janssen Pharmaceutica already entered in a partnership with Tech Watch in 2018. Given the success of this collaboration the partnership has been expanded.
Another collaboration announced in 2019 was with BGI Group headquartered in Shenzhen, China. BGI is the world’s largest genome research organization innovating at the forefront of genomic technologies. Through this strategic collaboration, VIB and BGI will establish joint research programs and conduct co-developments on innovative applications of single cell sequencing, health monitoring omics and more.
A collaboration with IMEC was established, with the two institutes joining forces to develop a game changing technology platform for automated single cell multi-omics analysis with the aim to spin out a company, with 1 FTE to be hired in 2020.