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Roche to License University DNA Sequencing Technology

Stuart Lindsay (Arizona State University)

Stuart Lindsay (Arizona State University)

The Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche has agreed to license DNA sequencing technology developed at Arizona State and Columbia universities to help build a new type of DNA sequencing system. One goal of the system will be to quickly decode a person’s complete genome for less than $1,000.

The licensed technologies are based on research conducted by Stuart Lindsay (pictured right) at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University in Tempe and Colin Nuckolls of the Columbia University Nanoscience Center in New York. The technologies are expected to be used in an ongoing collaboration between Roche, IBM, and Roche’s subsidiary 454 Life Sciences creating what they call the DNA Transistor.

The technologies, says ASU, offer a new approach for reading the sequence of bases, or letters, in a single DNA molecule as it is passed through a nanopore, a type of nanoscale filter, where 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter.

The ASU team has demonstrated the technology as a proof-of-concept, and is making a third generation reader molecule that provides better discrimination between the DNA bases. The licensing agreement with Roche is expected to help translate the discoveries into a commercial instrument.

Lindsay notes that the DNA reading technology from the Biodesign Institute “eliminates the need for the use of a major cost of sequencing today, namely the use of chemical reagents, to read an individual’s genome.” Nanopore sequencing can read lengths of DNA up to 50,000 thousand bases in length, without the need for dyes, sample processing, and other materials that contribute to the high current costs.

The DNA Transistor technology developed by IBM Research, slows and controls the movement of the DNA molecule as it threads through a microscopic nanopore in a silicon chip. The licensed DNA reading technology is expected to enhance that work by decoding the bases of the DNA molecule as it passes through. Both technologies are centered on semiconductor-based nanopores.

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