The next frontier for single-cell analysis

How single cells will inform the industry's next generation of therapies

With an explosion in scalability, single-cell analysis has begun to invade every aspect of drug development, with early benefits showing themselves in precision targeting. The field’s next challenge is to integrate a wider array of data types from each cell, which could unlock a trove of actionable insights beyond target discovery.

Instead of mashing up tissue containing a multitude of cell types, researchers are increasingly seeking a more surgical view of biology -- at the level of individual cells.

Analysis of single cells holds promise for untangling complex disease mechanisms to find new targets and biomarkers, identifying handles for cell-specific drug delivery, monitoring therapeutic responses and rationally designing combinations to boost efficacy or stave off resistance.

Development of single-cell techniques began in earnest a decade ago, but only gained momentum in the last few years thanks to parallel advances in the technologies used to process the cells and the computational capacity required to analyze the terabytes of data generated in the experiments.

“We’re reaching a point where single cell analysis is so mature and straightforward that it can be a routine assay.”

Evan Macosko, Harvard Medical School

“We’re reaching a point where single-cell analysis is so mature and straightforward that it can be a routine assay,” Evan Macosko, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and participant of the single-cell consortium Human Cell Atlas, told BioCentury.

RNA sequencing, the most advanced single-cell analysis technique, can now be done

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