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New Innovation in Genome Sequencing Technology May Dramatically Reduce Costs

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 12 Jul 2010
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A new collaborative agreement paves the way for a dramatic improvement in genome sequencing that may lower the cost of mapping an individual's genome to as little as US$100.

The partners in this endeavor are Roche (Basel, Switzerland), perhaps the world's largest biotechnology company and a leader in research-focused healthcare with combined strengths in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics; and IBM (Armonk, NY, USA), a major player in the fields of microelectronics, information technology, and computational biology.

The partners plan to develop a nanopore-based sequencer that will directly read and decode human DNA quickly and efficiently. The target is true single molecule sequencing that will decode molecules of DNA as they are threaded through a nanometer-sized pore in a silicon chip. This approach should deliver significant advantages in cost, throughput, scalability, and speed compared to sequencing technologies currently available or in development. Ultimately, the hope is to reduce the cost of sequencing an individual's genome to between $100 and $1000.

The agreement between the companies stipulates that Roche will fund continued development of the technology at IBM and provide additional resources and expertise through collaboration with Roche's sequencing subsidiary, 454 Life Sciences. Roche will develop and market all products based on the technology.

"By merging computational biology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology skills, we are moving closer to producing a system that can quickly and accurately translate DNA into medically-relevant genetic information," said Ajay Royyuru, senior manager of the computational biology department at IBM. "The challenge of all nanopore-based sequencing technologies is to slow and control the motion of the DNA through the nanopore. We are developing the technology to achieve this so that the reader can accurately decode the DNA sequence."

"Sequencing is an increasingly critical tool for personalized healthcare. It can provide the individual genetic information necessary for the effective diagnosis and targeted treatment of diseases," explained Manfred Baier, head of Roche applied science. "We are confident that this powerful technology - plus the combined strengths of IBM and Roche – will make low-cost whole genome sequencing and its benefits available to the marketplace faster than previously thought possible."

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