The technology fills a present gap in diagnostic testing and could contribute to extending the four walls of the health system for COVID-19 and beyond
By Benjamin Boettner
(BOSTON) — Today, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and 3EO Health Inc. announced that the company has signed a worldwide, exclusive licensing agreement with Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), granting 3EO Health the rights to commercialize a portable, ultrasensitive, PCR-grade nucleic acid detection technology developed by Wyss Core Faculty member Peng Yin, Ph.D., and his research team at the Wyss Institute. With a portable COVID-19 test as an intended first product, the company aims at using the technology and additional components to build a digital platform that could empower patients with access to self-testing, results, information, and doctors to enable faster and more effective self-care.
“In order to optimize the value of testing, tests should be simple to use, affordable, rapid, and accurate. When it comes to COVID at-home tests, existing antigen tests lack sensitivity, and molecular tests are expensive. We have developed a simple and rapid test platform that promises to deliver PCR-level accuracy at antigen level cost,” said Peng Yin, Ph.D., Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute, lead of the Wyss Molecular Robotics Initiative, and founder of 3EO Health. “We hope this platform will help to address the diagnostic needs in the present pandemic, as well as find broad applications for other infectious disease and beyond.”
Yin is also Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and previously co-founded the startups Ultivue Inc., NuProbe Global, Torus Biosystems Inc., Spear Bio Inc., and Digital Biology Inc., all companies which launched to commercialize technologies his group developed at the Wyss Institute.
“At 3EO, we’re interested in improving the future of health systems and the path to health and care. Technological advances like at-home testing may enable new models to emerge that have the potential to address inequities in access and care,” said Jeremy Schubert, M.B.A., M.P.H., the CEO of 3EO Health. Schubert has held several commercial and leadership positions across multiple divisions of Abbott, and has expertise in health system performance improvement, social determinants in public health, and building healthier communities.
To help advance the Wyss’ technology toward clinical validation and commercialization, several researchers from Yin’s team who were closely involved with its development have now joined 3EO Health. Thomas Schaus, M.D., Ph.D., who led a number of DNA-nanotechnology-driven projects as a former Senior Scientist in Yin’s group and Staff Lead at the Wyss’ Molecular Robotics Initiative, is now Director of Research at 3EO. Nikhil Gopalkrishnan, Ph.D. and Jiyoun Jeong, Ph.D., both experts in DNA nanotechnology with training in computer science and physics, respectively, were also essential to the technology development.
“Our core nucleic acid detection technology evolved as a combination of biochemical and mechanical inventions,” said Schaus. The team invented an innovative molecular assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 or other pathogens with high speed, sensitivity, and specificity. To allow the molecular assay to be performed with minimal user input at home, the researchers devised a reusable base unit, and pathogen-specific, one-time-use consumables, and then prototyped the combined technology at the Wyss Institute. Subsequent work at 3EO Health fully integrated the assay and device components, improved the speed and signal output of the evolved assay method, and transformed the prototypes into an inexpensive, reliable and manufacturable detection system.
“COVID-19 had us pivot and re-focus our efforts to develop breakthrough technologies that can solve imminent problems for the benefit of public health during this pandemic. Now, the same technologies are beginning to be applied to help conquer many other areas of medicine and health care. The diagnostic platform created by Peng Yin’s team in the Wyss’ Molecular Robotics Initiative, now to be commercialized by 3EO Health, is a compelling example with incredible potential,” said Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Bioinspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Harvard initially granted 3EO Health access to this technology on a non-exclusive basis, for a limited term, in accordance with the University’s commitment to the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework. The Framework enables broad access to emerging technologies to incentivize rapid innovation in pursuit of solutions to combat the pandemic.
Beyond the first COVID-19 application, 3EO Health aims to augment the portable, highly sensitive nucleic detection platform with a digital health environment that will enable more comprehensive telehealth applications to improve decision-making processes related to doctor and hospitals visits, as well as prescriptions.