100’000 CHF Tech Seed loan to Alithea Genomics and its optimisation in RNA sequencing

FIT | 09 March 2021

Alithea Genomics, a spin-off from EPFL, intends to drive research forward by developing a unique technology to democratise the sequencing of RNA. Thanks to the support of the FIT, the start-up will be able to experiment its process on a larger scale, thus opening up the hope of seeing RNA sequencing become widespread within precision medicine.

Recently, the general public has become almost familiar with the term RNA, since it is used extensively in the media regarding the search for a vaccine against Covid. But what exactly is RNA? It is a molecule resulting from the transcription of a gene, which allows the synthesis of a protein. This RNA can be sequenced, in particular with a view to finding an answer to certain diseases. The analysis of gene expression in biological samples is crucial for understanding the cause of complex diseases and the study of potential treatments. But this process as it is currently applied is long, costly and laborious, and thus blocks a number of research projects.

The technology developed by Alithea Genomics intends to solve this by proposing a novel technique called “Bulk RNA Barcoding followed by sequencing” (BRB-seq) which is capable of preparing thousands of RNA samples for sequencing, all in a single tube. An optimisation method that significantly reduces the amount of chemicals and staff time needed to carry out large-scale projects. “BRB-seq unleashes the true potential of RNA sequencing for precision medicine. We are bringing cost-effective transcriptomics solutions to biomedical pharmaceutical research with a focus on biomarker discovery and drug development. And by optimising the operational costs of RNA sequencing while significantly increasing the amount of analysed samples, we are enabling projects that were previously economically and practically unfeasible. ” explain Alithea co-founders Riccardo Dainese and Daniel Alpern.

The process provides R&D platforms with highly comprehensive and relevant usable data, making biobank analysis  and drug screening efforts more efficient. The field of possibilities is infinite and suggests the potential of democratising this process in the future.

Alithea Genomics was founded by Daniel Alpern, Riccardo Dainese and Bart Deplancke, later joined by Mustafa Demir. Their respective backgrounds in bioengineering, molecular biology, genomics and lab operations reflect their complementary expertise.

The start-up works in collaboration with EPFL and is also supported by Venturekick, Innogrants, ENABLE and Catalyze4Life. The next steps include: the launch of the MERCURIUS BRB-seq kits in March 2021 which allows the BRB-seq to be performed on 96 samples, the development of the PoC for the MERCURIUS High Throughput BRB-seq system by September 2021 which will allow up to 1536 samples to be processed in one tube, and the development of an automated solution for this method.


Riccardo Dainese

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