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Next-Gen Sequencing a Slim Possibility, Not A Priority in Agilent, BioNanomatrix Pact

This story originally appeared in Biocommerce Week, a newsletter that has been discontinued.
Though development of a next-generation DNA sequencing platform would appear to be a logical target for the collaboration between Agilent Technologies and BioNanomatrix announced last week, that particular application is not a priority, an Agilent official told BioCommerce Week.
Agilent intends to work with BioNanomatrix on developing a new platform for applications that are outside of the markets that Agilent currently serves. The firms believe genotoxicity and cytogenetics are prime areas to target, while next-generation sequencing will be considered, but is not an initial priority.
“What we would like to do is to work closely with BioNanomatrix and co-develop new applications that are based on their nanochip technology,” Eran Raber, Agilent’s director of new business creation and venture investments, said last week. “We can be their instrument partner and applications co-developer, because we have a broad portfolio of technologies that are necessary to develop applications.”
Although several established research tools firms, such as Applied Biosystems, Illumina, and Roche, as well as a variety of start-ups have begun either selling or developing next-generation sequencing technologies, it does not appear that market is high on Agilent’s list of opportunities.
“We will evaluate [next-generation sequencing] but not at the very initial phase,” said Raber. “BioNanomatrix has another engagement with Complete Genomics, which they announced [and] is not part of what we’re going to do with them.”
In September, BioNanomatrix said that it was partnering with Complete Genomics, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup, to develop a platform aimed at sequencing a human genome in eight hours for less than $100 under an $8.8 million grant from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“What we plan to do is focus on applications that we think are more immediate … and during the process evaluate the BioNanomatrix application for sequencing, but I don’t think at this point it is worthwhile emphasizing.”

“What we plan to do is focus on applications that we think are more immediate … and during the process evaluate the BioNanomatrix application for sequencing, but I don’t think at this point it is worthwhile emphasizing,” said Raber. “It’s a lower priority, I would say, at least at this point. We think there is a more immediate market opportunity with other applications that seem to be very important as well.”
The collaboration was forged through the New Business Creation department of Agilent Labs. This part of the firm was created to “explore and engage in new opportunities for the company that could be a bit too early for the business unit to take the lead at that early stage,” said Raber.
“This is going to be a new platform,” he said. “We can definitely leverage the microfluidics expertise that we have. We can leverage a lot of the imaging expertise that we have.
“What this new platform enables is the ability to linearize long fractions of DNA into channels and then make measurements on those long fractions,” Raber explained. “There isn’t a [similar] technology out there today that enables that. We think that the single-molecule detection and analysis capability is going to enable new applications.”
Chief among those new applications are genotoxicity and cytogenetics. He said the initial phase of the collaboration, for which the firms have not established any timelines, would determine which applications they would pursue first, though there currently is no commercial agreement or commitment between the partners.
“We anticipate that if we get a better understanding and we prove the feasibility of the technology, then we would like to move forward with the next phase, which is to develop a specific application and go for the commercialization agreement,” said Raber.
BioNanomatrix’s nanochannel arrays are based on microfluidics, which makes them akin to products developed by firms like Fluidigm or BioForce Nanosciences. And like these companies, BioNanomatrix is looking to compete in many of the same markets, such as cancer diagnostics, as traditional array firms.
Raber told BioCommerce Week sister publication BioArray News last week that any system developed by Agilent and BioNanomatrix would not cannibalize applications served by Agilent’s array business — like miRNA and methylation profiling and array comparative genomic hybridization — but would instead target areas where Agilent has no platform currently available. Additionally, the proposed system would borrow more from Agilent’s lab-on-chip instrumentation than its array system.
He said there also could be diagnostic applications, particularly in genetic testing, developed from the collaboration.

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