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Biochips: With Little Fanfare, Intel Enters Life Sciences Ring

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Intel, which has until now stayed out of the genomics market melée, quietly slipped into the gene pool during the past year. Andy Berlin was hired to head up a 10-person biochip group, charged with, among other things, finding uses for MEMS in biology.

Berlin stresses that the biochip unit, Intel’s first foray into life sciences, is a research-only group. “Intel is not becoming a life sciences company tomorrow,” Berlin says. “Our mission is to go out and identify places where silicon technology and chip technology and biology and medicine are converging, and to reach out and help accelerate that convergence.”

Intel’s model so far has been to partner with life sciences companies such as Hyseq spinoff Callida to assist with chip development. With Callida, Berlin’s group “is studying the feasibility of doing whole-genome sequencing,” he says. He’s also interested in chip-based early diagnosis of disease.

Though it still falls into the advanced research category, Berlin says the industry can expect Intel to up the ante as feasibility studies show positive results and more opportunities arise. “You’ll probably see us start another group in … a year or two, probably at a lab next to a university,” he says.

— Adrienne Burke and Meredith Salisbury

 

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