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Innovate UK backs ATDBio & University of Oxford research in single-cell sequencing

New approach expected to increase use of technique in research and diagnosis

Oxford, UK, September 8 2020 – ATDBio, a leader in complex oligonucleotide synthesis, and a research team at the Botnar Research Centre, University of Oxford, have been awarded funding by Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency, to improve single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq). By developing new materials for scRNA-Seq, the partners expect to increase its use in research and diagnosis of diseases such as cancer, bringing precision medicine closer to reality. The £369,632 grant allows them to access the single-cell genome sequencing market, which is expected to reach $2.5bn by 20251.

scRNA-Seq techniques support new improved levels of cancer diagnosis, by providing information about the differences between individual cells in a tumour. As such, scRNA-Seq holds the key to unlocking the cell-by-cell diagnostics that are needed to fully realise the ambitions of precision medicine.

In the most frequently used method of scRNA-seq, droplet-based scRNA-seq, the droplets enclose individual cells and microbeads which are labelled with oligonucleotides. With the Innovate UK funding, ATDBio will develop improved oligonucleotide-tagged microbeads, which will help enhance the quality of the sequencing results and enable new types of experiments.

Working with a research team consisting of Dr Martin Philpott, Dr Adam Cribbs and led by Professor Udo Oppermann, Director of Laboratory Sciences at the Botnar Research Centre, the performance of the new microbeads will be assessed. The researchers will also investigate additional uses for the microbeads outside of scRNA-Seq.

Dr Tom Brown Jnr, Chief Scientific Officer of ATDBio, said, ‘Our collaboration with the University of Oxford began in response to frequent comments from our customers about the need for improved droplet-based scRNA-seq microbeads. This grant from Innovate UK allows ATDBio to use its oligonucleotide synthesis expertise to make the technology more effective and more accessible to researchers and clinicians. We are grateful for its support.’

‘Droplet-based scRNA-Seq and related technologies have revolutionised in the past decade our understanding of biology in general and have the potential to transform the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer. We are grateful for the support by Innovate UK to promote our goal of bringing this technology closer to clinical application, together with the ATDBio team.’, added Professor Udo Oppermann, Director of Laboratory Sciences at the Botnar Research Centre.


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