London Calling: A glimpse into the future of genomic medicine

By Dr. Emma Stanton, SVP, Clinical, Oxford Nanopore Technologies

We have just concluded a deeply inspiring day at the London Calling 2024 conference, where we had the privilege of engaging with some of the brightest minds and leaders in the field of genomic medicine. Today's sessions underscored the transformative impact that our technology is making across the healthcare spectrum, particularly through its application in urgent public health and rare genetic diseases, as well as the potential to transform the biopharma industry.

Dr. Emma StantonDr. Emma Stanton, SVP, Clinical, Oxford Nanopore Technologies

Setting the stage for precision medicine

The conference commenced with a focus on precision medicine, highlighting the readiness of Oxford Nanopore to lead in this arena. Diverse stakeholders, including clinical researchers, physicians, and industry leaders, gathered to explore the potential of our technology in transforming patient care and shaping the future of genomic medicine.

In my opening remarks, I emphasised that our vision starts with the patient, our guiding "north star”. This philosophy underscores every step of our journey at Oxford Nanopore, towards making diagnoses faster and ensuring new medicines are accessible globally.

Tackling drug-resistant TB

The day began with a series of compelling presentations, including one by Seanne Buckwalter from the Mayo Clinic on rapid analysis techniques for drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). This session provided a stark reminder of the critical need for fast, precise genomic data to combat such pervasive diseases, and Seanne outlined the need for genomic approaches for broader infectious diseases.

Her discussion offered a concrete example of how our technology can be deployed to fight global health crises, reflecting our commitment to delivering high-quality genomic information rapidly and accurately. Talking about the significant need for faster characterisation of DR-TB, Seanne discussed their study using the TB_DR assay and said “overall we were super excited, the workflow was simplified and we could do this in under 8 hours.[...] It looked fantastic”.

Seanne BuckwalterSeanne Buckwalter, Principle Developer Mycobacteriology/Mycology lab, and Assistant Professor, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic

Pioneering genetic testing for rare diseases

Dr. Danny Miller from the University of Washington shared groundbreaking developments in genetic testing for rare diseases. His session, particularly close to my heart, illuminated how our technology enables clinicians to decode complex genetic information rapidly, which can profoundly alter the course of treatment and offer hope to patients with rare conditions.

Danny shared confidently - “long-read sequencing will fundamentally change clinical genetic testing in 5 years and this will reduce barriers to accessible comprehensive testing, making it more equitable.” This aligns perfectly with our goal at Oxford Nanopore: to enable everyone, anywhere in the world, to lead healthier lives through the power of genomics.

Dr. Danny MillerDr. Danny Miller, Assistant Professor, University of Washington

Genomic applications in health systems: a panel discussion

The final panel discussion with Prof Sir John Bell, Prof Benjamin Kipp, Prof Ian Abbs and Dr Rich Scott was particularly brilliant. It covered the integration of genomic technologies like ours into health systems globally. This conversation opened up a robust dialogue about the potential of these technologies to redefine healthcare paradigms, offering a glimpse into a future where genomic insights drive clinical decisions across the board.

Rich summarised all the work going on to bring this to patients by saying “movement of new ideas and innovation into clinical practice, that’s the hard bit. The genomics ecosystem in the UK is really well placed. We should celebrate the movement of things into clinical care that make a difference.”

Biopharma and genomics: a transformative synergy

A significant highlight of the day was the intersection of genomics and biopharma. We explored how our technology is transforming the drug development pipeline, from discovery right the way through to clinical trials, QC of commercial products and ultimately, to patient care.

The discussions showcased the applicability of Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing methods within regulated biopharma and the large steps we have taken in innovating our products and services to be suitable for use throughout the entire drug development pathway from R&D to GMP manufacturing environments.

During the morning session Dr. Telmo Graça, from Lonza discussed optimising QC testing of mRNA vaccines and therapeutics, stating it’s “win, win - faster and more effective mRNA analytics could simplify the regulatory review process and accelerate the development path.”

Telmo GraçaTelmo Graça, Process and Technology Lead, Lonza

Personalised medicine and cancer treatment

A session that truly illustrated the impact of our technology was led by Dr. Janessa Laskin from BC Cancer. Discussing the use of long-read sequencing in personalised cancer medicine, Laskin provided compelling evidence of how detailed genomic insights can guide customised treatment strategies.

Bringing together the biopharma and personalised medicine themes, Dr. Helen Gunter from the BASE mRNA Facility at The University of Queensland, Australia, discussed innovations in mRNA vaccine precision manufacturing. The mRNA manufacturing industry has expanded rapidly to meet the global demand for COVID-19 vaccines and emerging mRNA therapies.

Dr. Gunter described how direct RNA sequencing can be used in quality control (QC) testing of mRNA vaccines, reducing the time and analytical complexity with traditional methods. Her research demonstrated how our technology can confirm mRNA vaccine sequence identity, integrity, and purity, making it ideally suited for routine QC testing during mRNA vaccine manufacture.

This advancement not only accelerates the manufacturing process but also ensures the efficacy and safety of vaccines, aligning with our commitment to enhancing patient care through cutting-edge technology.

Reflecting on today's discussions, I am more convinced than ever of the transformative potential of nanopore sequencing in healthcare. The stories shared today reaffirm our commitment at Oxford Nanopore to push the boundaries of what’s possible in genomic medicine. Together, our Nanopore Community is reshaping futures, enhancing health outcomes, and touching lives in profound ways.