Carla Grandori, M.D., Ph.D.
CEO, SEngine Precision Medicine
Carla Grandori’s quest to make the latest lab discoveries directly available to patients began back in 2009, when the cancer researcher was first approached by a patient who asked her to study his melanoma.
“At first I thought, can we do that?” Grandori said.
The professor from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center turned the answer into a resounding “yes.” Now, eight years later, she has realized her dream of combining the best genomic advances with cutting-edge laboratory equipment and scientific expertise to guide treatment decisions, thus immediately benefiting patients.
SEngine Precision Medicine, the Seattle-based company she co-founded with four others with experience in cancer biology, genomics and bioinformatics, harnesses the power of genomics and robotics to search for new drug targets and to test existing drugs and drug combinations on individual tumor samples and patient-derived organoids.
The result – highlighted in a popular paper published in Cancer Discovery - is a truly tailored assessment of what will likely work and not work to treat that person’s cancer.
Carla Grandori was for thirty years a cancer researcher most recently at the Fred Hutch in Seattle. She had her personal reasons for working on cancer, she tells us in today’s show. Now, she’s the CEO and founder of SEngine, a startup offering something completely new for oncologists around the country.LISTEN TO PODCAST
Using the company’s CLIA-certified P.A.R.I.S. assay, SEngine can test more than 100 drugs on each patient sample. “Just as Paris slayed the invulnerable Achilles, SEngine has developed the P.A.R.I.S. assay to find the hidden vulnerabilities of your cancer,” the company states on its site.
“What I think makes our company unique is how we merge multiple technologies and top expertise in several branches of cancer biology, genomics and drug sensitivity. The complex analysis of multiple data types is greatly needed in precision medicine,” said Grandori.“SEngine delivers a state of the art integrated report on a given cancer that will guide implementation of precision oncology in the clinical and industry settings.”
By employing the Echo Liquid Handler and Access Laboratory Workstation from Labcyte, SEngine will be able to do even more with less.
Acoustic liquid handling technology is contactless, eliminating the use of pipettes and reducing the volumes required for compounds and samples. Thanks to this ability to miniaturize along with the capability to combine multiple assay components into single wells very rapidly, Grandori said she will be able to increase the scope of drug combination testing, using higher-density well plates and fewer sample cells.
“We know that one drug is not going to cure cancer. When we are testing 130 drugs on these samples, about five to seven work, on average,” Grandori said. “We like to further test these five and put them in combinations. The Labcyte technology will allow us to do these combinations rapidly and on the fly.”
Using the direct dilution capability of the Echo Liquid Handler also allows for easier, more efficient preparation of drug libraries, reducing prep time from two hours to just 10 minutes.
Most importantly, the Labcyte system makes possible what other lab instruments cannot, she said. “The Echo Liquid Handler's power and accuracy for samples in a very miniaturized format are unparalleled,” Grandori added.
As a veteran of high throughput sequencing, Grandori has looked at a lot of technology over the last decade, and was extremely selective when it came to equipping her company’s lab. On deciding to purchase the Echo system, she said: “The flexibility that no other instruments can achieve for performing drug combination studies, its accuracy, and miniaturization makes it really unique and valuable.”
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