Beckman Coulter (BC) has been in the biotech business for 80 years but they know that staying ahead in the high stakes game of healthcare requires staying one step ahead of the competition. The firm specializes in the development of products that streamline, automate and advance complex biomedical testing and recently announced they are acquiring SaaS company Cytobank to help with that goal.
Advances to flow cytometry testing allows researchers to observe more cellular characteristics. Flow cytometry testing has many research and clinical applications but can be used to help diagnose the presence of cancer.
The process analyzes blood or bone marrow cells to determine whether a high white blood cell count is due to leukemia or lymphomas. In addition, the test can evaluate certain cell features – such as size, shape, and the occurrence of specific biomarkers. The procedure can help subclassify cell types so appropriate decisions can be made regarding medical treatment
BC’s CytoFLEX LX can identify 23 different cell parameters, for example, but the amount and type of data that needs to be interpreted creates unique challenges for researchers and technicians. Interestingly, evaluating the results can be just as much an art as it is a science.
“Interpreting data is the subjective component of this type of analysis, which requires someone with experience and training,” said Dr. Brent Wood, professor with the School of Medicine, University of Washington. “In that sense, it is different to many other tests we do in clinical laboratories, where instruments provide a numerical data or results that are review and released.”
Enter Cytobank – the software company that created a cloud-based analytics application that assists with examination, visualization, sharing and storing of data sets from flow cytometry testing. More importantly – the ability to provide more consistent analysis of those results in a more timely fashion.
“We can now provide more standardized, yet flexible high-end data analytics solutions to pharma/biopharma and leading academic clinical research customers,” Mario Koksch, flow cytometry business unit vice president at Beckman Coulter, said in a statement.
The benefits go beyond standardization, however. Cytobank’s software uses machine learning to provide an efficient, multi-factored analysis, visualization and collaboration across numerous sites. This will also prove advantageous as medical technology advances and enables researchers’ new capabilities to detect new features and make determinations based on that information.
“One real opportunity lies in the fusion of flow cytometric technology with molecular testing,” Wood said, “increasing capability to do single cell molecular-based techniques that can incorporate some of the flow cytometric features to a system identifying cell populations, but also then extensively characterising them at a molecular level and providing much more insight into the biologic nature of subpopulations of cells in any given tumor and potentially their relative response to therapy.”
“I think hybridization of flow cytometry with molecular testing is an important area going forward,” he concluded.
Cytobank will merge into the Beckman Coulter Life Sciences organization once the deal is finalized. Beckman Coulter is based in Los Angeles and employs over 11,000 people around the world. They operates as a subsidiary of Danaher, a global science and technology conglomerate, with an estimated $20 billion in annual revenue.