Home Systems biology Harvard University’s Wyss Institute launches SPEAR Bio to

Harvard University’s Wyss Institute launches SPEAR Bio to


Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, Aug. 23, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — (BOSTON) — Today, Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Spear Bio, Inc. announced that the protein The Institute’s ultra-sensitive DNA nanotechnology-based SPEAR-sensing technology has been licensed to the new Boston-based startup. Spear Bio has signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), granting SPEAR Bio the rights to commercialize SPEAR protein detection technology. Spear Bio will develop a reagent-based platform for the detection of ultrasensitive proteins in small volume samples with an initial focus on research-only applications.

A pioneer in the group of Wyss Core faculty member Peng Yin, Ph.D., SPEAR technology enables the detection of highly sensitive proteins in small patient samples, such as a drop of blood from a finger, spot samples of dried blood and other biofluids obtained using micro-sampling techniques, while taking advantage of existing laboratory equipment, including the now ubiquitous qPCR machines. Spear Bio plans to use SPEAR technology to build a more broadly applicable protein detection platform, and will initially focus on commercializing an ultra-sensitive assay that can accurately measure levels of neutralizing antibodies. (NAbs) against SARS-CoV-2.

Generation and levels of NAbs are a key metric for understanding protective immunity and vaccine effectiveness, and SARS-CoV-2 NAb tests are tools used by the Centers for Disease Control, as well as by vaccine and drug developers, to determine the susceptibility of individuals to infectious pathogens such as COVID-19. The ability to quantify them with sensitivity and precision in small, readily available patient samples could greatly increase the depth and throughput of these studies and enable various types of future research and diagnostic testing.

“The invention of SPEAR was made possible by the key advancements in DNA nanotechnology we have made at Wyss over the years, including the prescribed, signal-dependent synthesis of readable DNA sequences,” said said Peng Yin, Ph.D., who is a leader. of the Wyss Institute’s Molecular Robotics Initiative and Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS). “The detection platform that Feng Xuan built and then drastically scaled down with other members of the lab, now has significant potential to develop immunoassay products for clinical research and in vitro short-term diagnosis. Yin, who co-founded Spear Bio, has previously co-founded other startups including Ultivue Inc., NuProbe Global, Torus Biosystems Inc., 3EO Health and Digital Biology, Inc., which leverage technologies developed in his Wyss Institute lab.

Feng Xuan, Ph.D., was a postdoctoral fellow in Yin’s team and also became a co-founder of SPEAR Bio and is now the company’s technical director. During technology development, he worked with co-inventors Cherry (Tsz Wing) Fan, Ph.D., and Yu Wang, Ph.D., and other members of the group. Wang is now Acting Head of Application Development at SPEAR Bio.

In SPEAR, which stands for “Successive Proximity Extension Amplification Reaction”, minute amounts of proteins, including NAbs, can be detected via target-binding probes that bind to different but proximal sites in the structure of a protein. This proximal double labeling event allows the two probes to “shake hands”, their interaction triggering a successive specifically designed extension reaction and the synthesis of a unique DNA sequence which can then be amplified and quantified using of standard qPCR instruments. It is important to note that in the absence of detection targets, the interaction between the floating probes does not allow the synthesis of the complete DNA sequence, which considerably reduces the background noise compared to conventional tests based on on proximity. SPEAR is superior to other protein detection assays in its combination of extreme sensitivity, wash-free workflow and functionality over a wide range of target protein levels (dynamic range) with the ability to be fully effective in volumes sample sizes as small as 1 uL. The technology was de-risked with the help of the Wyss translation engine, in which it was given the status of first a validation project and then an institute project, designated to support the development of technologies to high added value and strong market potential. Hit.

“The extreme sensitivity in very small sample volumes provided by SPEAR, and the fact that it can be read using common quantitative PCR equipment, offers unique potential for creating samples based on micro-sampling. in vitro diagnostics that can transform academic and clinical research in multiple disease areas,” Xuan said.

Spear Bio is currently applying the assay to the quantification of SARS-CoV-2 NAb in dried blood samples, and thus aims to facilitate research into COVID-19 disease and vaccines. Beyond this first application, the company plans to use the assay to develop other research and diagnostic applications that require the ultrasensitive and quantitative detection of protein biomarkers in small samples. “SPEAR’s unique capabilities give us a clear value proposition for market entry.” said Oliver Tassinari, Senior Director of Business Development at SPEAR Bio. “We are now focused on translating the exceptional technical performance of assay technology into a satisfying customer experience to solve research and diagnostic issues.”

Harvard initially granted SPEAR Bio access to this technology on a non-exclusive basis, for a limited time, in accordance with the University’s commitment to the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework. The framework allows broad access to emerging technologies to encourage rapid innovation in the search for solutions to fight the pandemic.

“Our ability to detect ever-smaller quantities of biomolecules in all molecular species with increasing speed and specificity, and in a variety of settings, including dried blood samples, opens up entirely new approaches to medical diagnosis that could be used both at home and in the hospital setting. Wyss’ SPEAR protein detection technology, developed by Peng Yin’s group, is at the forefront of this field, and should help move the needle in terms of rapid clinical assessment of patient protection after vaccination or infection during short-term COVID-19,” said Wyss founding director Donald Ingber, MD, 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 Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
Benjamin Boettner, benjamin.boettner@wyss.harvard.edu, +1 617-432-8232

Harvard Technology Development Office


Lance Bio, Inc.

Oliver Tassinari, Senior Business Development Manager, info@spear.bio, +1 781-937-5245


The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University (www.wyss.harvard.edu) is a research and development engine for disruptive innovation powered by bio-inspired engineering with visionary people at its heart. Our mission is to transform healthcare and the environment by developing breakthrough technologies that mimic the way nature builds and accelerate their translation into commercial products through the formation of startups and corporate partnerships to have a positive impact. short term in the world. We achieve this by breaking down traditional silos in academia and barriers with industry, enabling our world-renowned faculty to creatively collaborate across our focus areas of diagnostics, therapeutics, medical technology and sustainability. Our consortium partners include leading academic institutions and hospitals in the Boston area and around the world, including Harvard Schools of Medicine, Engineering, Arts & Sciences, and Design, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston University, Tufts University, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, University of Zürich and Massachusetts Institute of Technology .

About Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development

Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) promotes the public good by encouraging innovation and translating new inventions made at Harvard University into products that are useful, available, and beneficial to society. Our integrated approach to technology development includes sponsored research and corporate alliances, intellectual property management, and technology commercialization through company formation and licensing. More than 100 startups have launched to commercialize Harvard technologies over the past 5 years, collectively raising over $4.4 billion in funding. To further bridge the development gap between university and industry, Harvard OTD operates the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator and jointly oversees the Harvard Grid. For more information, please visit https://otd.harvard.edu.

About Spear Bio

Spear Bio (www.spear.bio), founded in 2021 by Harvard researchers at the Wyss Institute, is headquartered in Woburn, MA. The company is dedicated to the next generation of ultra-sensitive immunoassay technology and works closely with academic researchers, clinicians and industry to develop more ultra-sensitive detection approaches in support of clinical research, drug collection methods non-invasive samples and state-of-the-art laboratory diagnostics.