The spatial technology developed in 2019, known as Slide-seq, is now commercially available as the Seeker, by Curio Biosciences.
By Julianna LeMieux, PhD – GEN
In 2019, spatial transcriptomics was creating a lot of buzz in the genomics world. Technologies like MERFISH and FISSEQ were the foundation of new companies. That same year, Fei Chen, PhD, Sam Rodriques, PhD, and Evan Macosko, PhD, colleagues at the Broad Institute, published a new spatial technology that doesn’t need any equipment, other than a sequencer, called Slide-seq. In addition, Slide-seq offers high resolution due to the platform’s minute (10 microns) barcoded beads and limited diffusion.
Immediately after the paper was published, calls and requests from collaborators came rolling in. Chen told GEN that they were overwhelmed supporting other folks, some of whom were far outside of Chen’s core scientific focus.
Chen’s goal was to get the tool into the hands of other researchers. The impact of developing technologies, he says, is when people use them. But they needed a company to do it. They tried to do it themselves and sought interest from venture capital firms. But selling tools to researchers is a somewhat non-traditional business model for a VC. They were more interested in using it internally to discover drugs. And that wasn’t what Chen had in mind.
Then the pandemic hit, other priorities took over, and Slide-seq stayed in the lab. All the while, Chen’s group continued to work on Slide-seq, making improvements along the way.
In early 2021, Chen, Macosko, and Rodriques were connected to Steve Fodor, PhD, genomics pioneer and co-founder of Affymetrix, through a VC incubator. Chen called it a “very chance meeting.” Fodor liked the technology and liked the idea of distributing it to the world.
The partnership, which includes co-founders Ari Chaney (COO) and Christina Fan, PhD (CTO), was formed in early 2021 and today, less than two years later, Curio Biosciences is launching the Slide-seq technology under a new name, Seeker. The kit includes eight Seeker tiles (which are pucks in Slide-seq), reagents, and text files with bead barcodes and spatial locations.
Chen said that, in retrospect, 2019 probably would have been a little early to the game. The additional two years meant that the technology matured to a place where it was easy to manufacture and turn into a tool. And the excitement for spatial grew considerably over those two years. All this probably served the technology’s developers well in the end.