Biotangents present sustainable veterinary diagnostics solution at SynbiTECH 2020

29 October 2020

Dr. Pascoe Harvey, Senior Scientist, not on his way to present at SynbiTECH 2020.

Dr Pascoe Harvey, Senior Scientist and Bioinformation at Biotangents, was invited to present at the SynbiTECH 2020 virtual conference in the “Food and the environment - working with the natural world” session to highlight how Biotangents can improve sustainability with their novel approach to diagnostics.


SynbiTECH 2020 is a global synthetic biology conference attracting innovators and leading experts to share ideas on how synthetic biology can, and is, being used for a sustainable future.


Pascoe introduced our proprietary technology, Moduleic Sensing™, which comprises a novel molecular biology platform, advanced machine learning algorithms and microfluidic expertise.


He explained that improved diagnostic solutions are required, as demand for meat and dairy is expected to grow 60% over the next 30 years to feed a global population growing to 9.8 billion. Every year five new infectious diseases of animals emerge, three quarters of which are transmissible to humans, with COVID-19 being a prime example.

Historically, the design of molecular assays was entirely human-powered, taking a great deal of time through iterative experimental attempts in the laboratory. In recent times, more automated approaches have been implemented. Biotangents have taken this a step further by creating evolutionary machine-learning algorithms, which can design both a mechanism and sequence optimised for a particular setup.


The machine-learning approach uses an evolutionary algorithm in which the desired behaviour is defined mathematically. A semirandom pool of sequences and structures are then tested with this function to see how well they fit the desired behaviour. The best candidates are then computationally mutated and bred together to form the next generation of sequences. This produces nucleic acid systems which iteratively improve our ability to perform the desired dynamic. In the early stages of this process, advantageous sequences and structures are recombined together to produce mechanisms for performing the desired behaviour. In a later stage we see speciation, where progeny of a common ancestor recombine advantageous point mutations to produce the optimal sequence for a particular mechanism.

Using this approach means that:

  • Less human time is required

  • There is a greater likelihood of the assay working first time

  • Reduced laboratory resource is required

  • We can build assays which are more robust

  • We can adapt to various factors such as genetic variance

  • Higher sensitivity assays are produced

  • We can produce assays where each nucleotide in a sequence can have different specificity requirements

  • We can produce systems that are robust to changes in temperature and buffer composition

This has allowed Biotangents to develop algorithms for diagnostic probe design that allow 1,000x lower concentrations of a target to be detected than probes designed by humans. This is critical, as different pathogen tests have different requirements and challenges in terms of variation and specificity. For example, bovine viral diarrhoea has a highly variable genome which is critical to consider when designing both a mechanism and sequence.


Biotangents will launch their first commercial product, a bovine viral diarrhoea laboratory test, in 2021, with the ongoing validation highlighting a high level of diagnostic accuracy. We have one patent filed, with two in draft currently and more to follow in future.


Our market-led developments for mastitis and bovine respiratory disease have already begun, and the resultant products will be launched in 2022.


Biotangents are currently seeking development partners to collaborate on our existing pipeline of products including mastitis and bovine respiratory disease point of care tests. We would also be delighted to explore any bespoke ideas. To explore this further, please contact us.

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