#TogetherAgainstCOVID19 - Biome Makers

Read the interview with Adrian Ferrero, Co-Founder of the AgTech Biome Makers from Spain. The innovative start-up is set to enable healthcare systems around the globe for mass testing. 

Biome Makers is a biotech start-up all about the soil and the enhancement of the microbiomes within it. Could you briefly introduce your company?

We are a global agtech startup modeling soil functionality to enhance the productivity of arable soils. Starting in 2015, we have developed a patented technology integrating DNA Sequencing and ecological computing technologies cracking one of the more complex biomarkers, soil microbiome.

We are on the mission to become the leading soil functionality platform by digitalizing soil functionality and enabling soil data integrations with other precision agtech platforms. Our BeCrop® tests provide data-driven insights to enhance the soil productivity and health for more than 350 farmers at different locations.

It might not be obvious how Biome Makers is able to help to beat COVID19 – how can your abilities/technology support healthcare systems during the pandemic?

We are a biotech startup working in the microbiome space to solve problems in agriculture and we detected the immediate need to scale the diagnostic capacity for coronavirus. Currently, we are able to profile the whole spectrum of soil microbes using advanced DNA sequencing technologies, so we could use high-throughput sequencing to target the identification of this virus instead of the whole microbiome. This development would enable scalable testing of SARS-CoV-2 patients.

As innovators, we are committed with societal challenges and believes it is our responsibility to share our know-how to respond to the pandemic outbreak. This development will allow large scale diagnosis especially useful for epidemiologic proposes as identifying and limiting the transmission from asymptomatic persons and prevent the occurrence of follow-on waves of infection.

For that reason, we have adapted our microbiome multiplex amplicon targeted sequencing to detect SARS-CoV-2 using the most common Next Generation Sequencer in the world: the Illumina´s MiSeq. This device is now widely available across the world, including in-house availability in hospitals, clinics, research institutions and commercial service providers.

Visualisation of the Biome Maker workflow.

Testing is the key for healthcare systems worldwide in order to cope with and eventually beat this pandemic. How does your workflow enable testing on much larger scales than it is currently the case?

The workflow allows detection of COVID-19 viral RNA and increase 10X the current RT-qPCR assays, using a simple library preparation followed by Next-generation Sequencing (NGS). The whole workflow can be completed in hours, helping to scale and speed up the identification of COVID-19.  With this development, we aim at contributing to the fight against this pandemic, which has already caused significant damage to our society, and could continue to do so if we do not have the right tools to control it.

Which screws need to be turned in your view in order for achieving these high numbers of testing capabilities?

The method amplifies two SARS-CoV-2 genes and includes multiple controls to yield an accurate and quantitative report. Furthermore, we have adapted Biome Makers´ microbiome computational pipeline to process the sequencing data, providing and end-to-end solution to identifying SARS-CoV-2 in biological samples. We recommend using this approach together with automatic viral RNA isolation and pipetting robots.

Healthcare institutions and other diagnostic facilities can acces to our technology easily. We provide the instructions, the library preparation reagents and the bioinformatic system for data processing.

We stand #TogetherAgainstCOVID19 – what role does collaboration play for Biome Makers now?

Thanks to having the most advanced analysis technology, Biome Makers is ready to do its bit and support our governments in the fight against Covid19. Currently, Biome Makers is advising on its workflow for faster virus detection as well as creating kits for proper process operation. On the other hand, our main objective is to recover soil health. Therefore, we are promoting fields4ever, which is a worldwide initiative that aims to recover our food quality as well as the productivity of our soils. Currently, many scientists, farmers and other agents of the ag ecosystem have joined to create a better world for the generations to come. Join to the initiative,

Adrian Ferrero is the co-founder & CEO of Biome Makers. An economist by training and specialized in innovation, he grew up in an agricultural region in Spain and in 2012 decided to join his childhood friend, Alberto Acedo, to launch innovative businesses to solve major problems in our current society, as a cancer diagnosis or soil productivity. Recognized as one of the lead entrepreneurs in the Spains by its government, EU, or the MIT Technology Review, traveled to the US in 2015 to build Biome Makers, becoming the first non-American company partnering with the biotech giant Illumina in its Accelerator program. From there, Biome Makers has received many awards worldwide and attracts over $10M from investors for Biome Makers.