Work with Us

Genentech

Genentech

Our Flow Cytometry Core Facility is providing innovative, cutting-edge support to a global pharmaceutical as it assesses the performance and effects of new drugs.

Genentech is one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, with more than 40 drugs on the market. At a time of incredible scientific discovery, when scientists can sequence entire human genomes in hours or turn skin cells into heart cells, Genentech is working to turn such breakthroughs into medicines that have a real impact on human health.

The company’s operations span the entire drug development pipeline, from discovery and validation to clinical trials. Newcastle University’s (Flow) Cytometry Core Facility, part of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, provides it with innovative, cutting-edge cytometry support as it seeks to assess the performance and effects of new drugs.

Genentech, part of the Roche Group, needs to know how any treatments affect the body on a molecular level to understand how they are helping to tackle diseases. The University’s world-class technology and highly-experienced staff are equipped to measure the characteristics of cells, ranging from size and cell count to morphology, DNA content and the presence or absence of proteins on the cell surface.

Dr William O’Gorman, Development Scientist at Genentech, says: “We work with the Newcastle Cytometry Core because of their ability to develop and execute extremely complex assays with exceptional levels of precision. Importantly, their deep experience as both biologists and single-cell technologists enables collaborative work to be done efficiently and pragmatically.” 

Highly experienced

The Newcastle team is led by Dr Andrew Filby, an internationally-recognised expert who is the council member responsible for method development and technology at the International Society for the Advancement of Cytometry. His team focuses on a range of techniques including fluorescence cytometry, mass cytometry, metabolimetry and imaging cytometry. They can also draw on wider expertise from across the University to carry out, for example, genomics, bio-imaging and high-resolution and electron microscopy.

Organisations from across the world sometimes send the team samples of blood or tissue for analysis and they are also frequently involved in clinical research trials or sub-studies taking place in the North East of England. The technology has developed far beyond traditional flow cytometry, which is particularly good for analysing blood or water, so that tissue samples that aren’t in fluids can easily be tested.

Andrew explains that every human disease is caused by a failure of cell function. Cancer is caused when cells stop behaving normally and continually divide when they shouldn’t. The HIV virus wipes out a particular type of immune cell, leaving sufferers open to infection. Newcastle University’s (Flow) Cytometry Core Facility can accurately measure such changes to help drug developers create life-saving treatments. 

Broad applications

But it’s not just drug companies that benefit from work at the facility. It has also helped organisations to, for example, check for the presence of bacteria in water, and is heavily involved in the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) initiative to map all the cells in the human body. They design bespoke assays to help clients overcome specific problems.

One of the reasons organisations choose to work with the team is that, combined, they have more than 80 years of experience, working on all forms of cytometry. Andrew adds: “We work to best practices and provide a high level of quality assurance, expertise and continuity of technology, technique and methodology. Even if people come and go the practices we have within the team and within the lab are maintained”

Dr Andrew Filby is council member responsible for method development and technology at the International Society for the Advancement of Cytometry.