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Agilent Acquires Halo Genomics to Complement SureSelect for Small Captures


By Julia Karow

Broadening its DNA target enrichment portfolio beyond SureSelect, Agilent Technologies last week acquired Halo Genomics of Uppsala, Sweden, for an undisclosed amount.

Privately held Halo, which changed its name from Olink Genomics earlier this year, offers single-tube multiplex target amplification, based on a method that was originally developed at Uppsala University. The method, which relies on so-called selector probes, can amplify up to several thousand genomic targets per reaction.

In March, Halo launched the HaloPlex PCR Reagent Kit, which allows users to amplify up to 2,000 target exons of their choice in a single reaction tube and includes sequencing library preparation for the Illumina platform.

HaloPlex kits are available for target sizes under 200 kilobases or for 200 to 400 kilobases, and use barcodes for multiplexing 48 or 96 samples per HiSeq flow cell lane. According to the company, the amplification requires less than 24 hours.

Halo also offers the Selector Target Enrichment Kit, a product it released last year, which does not include the sequencing library preparation and is compatible with all next-generation sequencing platforms.

Agilent plans to continue both products lines, according to Bob Schueren, vice president and general manager of Agilent's genomics business.

Schueren said that Halo's technology has a "great workflow" that is fast and has few steps and complements Agilent's SureSelect hybridization-based in-solution capture. While Halo's approach is especially suited for small captures with a target size of under one megabase, SureSelect will remain the method of choice for larger captures, for example of whole exomes.

Olle Ericsson, Halo's CEO and founder, said that the HaloPlex workflow is especially well adapted for sequencing gene panels on benchtop sequencers. The company already has good data for the Illumina MiSeq platform and "very promising" data for Life Tech's Ion Torrent platform, he said. He added that the company plans to show data from benchtop sequencing systems at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology meeting in February.

Agilent also believes that the HaloPlex technology will meet the needs of the clinical sequencing market, which Ericsson attributed to its high specificity and high coverage of target regions.

Earlier this year, Halo released a HaloPlex PCR gene panel kit to amplify the exons of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for sequencing on the Illumina platform. For the Selector technology, it offers six different gene panel kits, according to its website.

Schueren did not disclose what additional kits Agilent plans to launch for Halo's technologies, or when they will be released. According to Ericsson, the target size might increase beyond 400 megabases.

Halo Genomics' 15 employees have joined Agilent's genomics business, which is part of its Biological Systems division. Agilent plans to keep "a good R&D presence" in Uppsala, according to Schueren. "We really value having the R&D facility so tightly embedded in a top university setting," he said.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in Clinical Sequencing News? Contact the editor at jkarow [at] genomeweb [.] com.