OHMX.bio: state-of-the-art omics solutions

May 24, 2023 Article MEDVIA

OHMX.bio provides innovative omics solutions using state-of-the-art sequencing and mass spectrometry platforms. Specializing in expression analysis (RNA-seq and RIBO-seq) and epigenetic profiling, as well as companion diagnostics, the company uses second- and third-generation sequencing technology to enable scientific insights and build assays for better drug and therapy development. With both a wet lab and dry lab in house, OHMX.bio offers a full-circle service to biotech and pharma partners.

By Amy LeBlanc. Header image: Gerben Menschaert.

Science has come a very long way since the first sequencing of the human genome in 2003. Technological advancements have opened up a wealth of possibilities in various omics fields – such as genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics – that have enabled dramatic breakthroughs in health and life sciences. With this rise in omics studies, the demand for faster, better sequencing solutions has boomed, and new companies have arisen to meet the challenge. OHMX.bio is one such company, established in 2019 as a spin-off of Ghent University. Gerben Menschaert, Co-founder and CSO, explains the motivation behind the founding of the company:

“Omics research is no longer a niche field – it is being used across many different sectors and at different stages of research. However, many companies lack the infrastructure or experience to work with these expensive and specialized new sequencing instruments and their resulting data. At Ghent University, we started receiving a growing number of requests for help from both academic and industry partners. Which is why we decided to launch OHMX.bio: to provide our services to biotechs, pharma, but also plant breeding companies which were clearly in need of a partner for omics solutions.”

A full-circle service

With in-house technology and a team of fifteen experienced employees, OHMX.bio offers a range of omics services including genomics, transcriptomics, translatomics (also known as ribosome profiling), proteomics and epigenomics, as well as bioinformatics support. The company’s focus on epigenetics and expression analysis, in its broadest sense, is particularly unique, says Menschaert:

“Epigenetic research is on the rise in fields such as oncology, where the role of gene regulation is increasingly becoming apparent and opening the potential for a whole new type of epigenetic diagnostics and therapeutics. Our company’s level of expertise in this area remains relatively rare. Expression analysis (RNA-seq) is a rapidly growing area of study and is already being used more routinely, but the  great thing is that we can offer this in a multi-omics setup. Other specific analysis can be integrated, such as translatomics (providing information on the step where RNA is translated into proteins), or proteomics (using mass spectrometry). To date, most of our information on biological pathways has come from either the starting point (genomics) or the functional end product (proteomics), but with extra layers such as transcriptomics and translatomics in between we can examine multiple types of molecules in an integrative way. The multi-omics market is expanding and there are currently a limited number of companies that specialize in these particular services, with OHMX.bio being one of them.”

“The multi-omics market is expanding and there are currently a limited number of companies that specialize in these particular services, with OHMX.bio being one of them.” – Gerben Menschaert

What sets OHMX.bio apart from other service providers is not only the company’s specialization, but also the breadth and depth of the support provided. To partners, OHMX.bio acts as a combination of both wet lab and dry lab – an extension of the companies themselves, supporting research from start to finish.

“We see ourselves as a solution provider, rather than a classic CRO,” Menschaert states. “Our customers tell us that our flexibility is one of our most valuable traits: we help them with the initial design of their experiments, creating customized, tailored workflows for them if they need it. We’ll then optimize the protocols and perform the hands-on lab work and sequencing. And importantly, our in-house bioinformaticians then also help in the final data handling and interpretation. It’s a full-circle service, with a focus on scientific quality every step of the way. We have a problem-solving mindset, striving to find the answers to the questions our partners bring us, no matter the challenge. We are customer oriented and want to provide tailor-made solutions.”

Third-generation sequencing

OHMX.bio offers a range of state-of-the-art sequencers and mass spectrometry, with close ties to Ghent University providing immediate access to new emerging technologies. The company’s current in-house tools fit into two main categories: classic second-generation sequencers, exemplified by Illumina’s products, and third-generation sequencers developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies. Third-generation sequencing is still rather new – it is currently the only technology in the world able to perform a bimodal readout, capturing both the bases (DNA/RNA) together with their modifications (epigenetics). The prominent scientific journal Nature Methods named this type of long-read sequencing it’s ‘Method of the Year’ in 2023. But OHMX.bio has been onboard the third-gen bandwagon for a comparatively long time, Menschaert confides:

“We were very early adopters of Oxford Nanopore’s technology: we started working with their products already in 2020, making our company one of the first in the world to implement these new solutions and become one of their few certified sequencing providers. We’ve always been firm believers in the importance of this technology, which opens the doors to a lot of previously inaccessible omics work.”

Companion diagnostics

One of the applications for this third-gen sequencing technology is in developing clinical and companion diagnostics assays: tests that use biomarkers to help determine if a new therapy is suitable to a specific person. This method can be used to stratify the patient population into likely responders and non-responders, to conduct more efficient clinical trials and make therapies more targeted.

Read this article to learn more about data science and why omics and bioinformatics solutions matter to our health!

“Many companies don’t have the in-house knowledge or bandwidth to develop such companion diagnostics, even though they are necessary from a regulatory and reimbursement perspective. It’s quite critical to have them in place early on, already alongside the initial drug development stages. What we offer is assay development services for these companion diagnostics, building them together with the biotech or pharmaceutical companies so that the assay can be used already in preclinical phases, and then to enroll the correct patients in later clinical studies. Also here, we focus on epigenetic or bimodal readout, because of our expertise and the different technology platforms we have available (both Illumina and Nanopore sequencing, as well as array and methylation-specific PCR solutions).”

In everything they do – from epigenetics to expression analysis and ribosome profiling, diagnostics, microbiome analysis (and more) – the OHMX.bio team is driven by a staunch commitment to scientific quality and a close customer relationship. The company is ISO certified and strives to provide partners with a personalized approach to each project. With a wet lab of researchers and state-of-the-art technologies, and a dry lab of bioinformaticians enabling data insights, OHMX.bio offers a full circle of omics solutions.


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MEDVIA

MEDVIA is a spearhead cluster that fosters health innovation by facilitating collaborations between biotech and medtech companies, hospitals, research institutes, and service providers in Flanders and Brussels, providing members with tailored services and funding. Our articles feature MEDVIA members and projects.

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