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Small Sequencing Tech and Dx Firms Win More than $6M under Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Program


By Julia Karow

This article was originally published Nov. 18.

Several companies developing DNA sequencing and related technologies, as well as firms working on sequencing-based genetic tests, recently received more than $6 million in total grant funding under the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Program, created by the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act earlier this year.

They are among almost 3,000 small biotechnology companies who received a total of $1 billion in grants and tax credits under the program in tax years 2009 and 2010. The program, which is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service, allotted up to $5 million per company.

The program targets projects that show "significant potential to produce new therapies, address unmet medical needs, reduce the long-term growth of health care costs, or advance the goal of curing cancer within the next 30 years" and have "the greatest potential to create and sustain high-quality, high-paying jobs" in the US, according to an announcement of the grants and credits earlier this month. A full list of the recipients is available ",,id=228690,00.html".

A number of grants went to early-stage companies developing new sequencing technologies that are not yet on the market, some of which are also funded under the National Human Genome Research Institute's "$1,000 Genome" program. These firms include Halcyon Molecular, which is working on an electron microscopy-based sequencing technology (IS 3/23/2010); Nabsys, which combines sequencing-by-hybridization with electronic detection (IS 3/16/2010); Intelligent Bio-Systems, which has been working on a sequencing-by-synthesis sequencer based on technology from Columbia University (IS 3/24/2009); Stratos Genomics, which is developing a method called "sequencing by expansion" (IS 9/7/2010); as well as Caerus Molecular Diagnostics (IS 9/14/2010) and GenapSys, which are both working on label-free DNA sequencing technologies.

Several other companies received funding to develop instruments and reagents that complement DNA sequencing. Among them is IntegenX — formerly Microchip Biotechnologies — which received four grants, three of them for sequencing sample prep automation systems. The company recently launched the Apollo 324 system for automated DNA library preparation for next-gen sequencing, and also sells the Apollo 100 to automateDNA sequencing reactions for Sanger sequencing. BioNanomatrix, which launched the NanoAnalyzer 1000 this month, an instrument to analyze single molecules of DNA in nanochannels (IS 10/20/2009), also received funding. Rubicon Genomics won two grants, each for the development of sample-prep kits for next-generation sequencing.

Another set of companies won grants to apply next-gen sequencing to diagnostics. Two of them — Artemis Health and Sequenom — received separate grants to develop sequencing-based tests for the noninvasive prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome (IS 9/21/2010). Good Start Genetics, which is working on a sequencing-based pre-pregnancy genetic screening test (IS 9/14/2010), and Foundation Medicine, which is developing clinical laboratory tests for cancer using next-gen sequencing and other technologies (IS 4/20/2010), also received funding. Another company, Sundance Diagnostics, won a grant for whole-genome sequencing to develop a diagnostic test for suicidal ideation; and MLC Dx (IS 8/24/2010) obtained funding to develop a sequencing-based recurrence test for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Helicos BioSciences, which has been selling a single-molecule sequencing platform but recently changed its strategy to develop diagnostics, amidst severe funding troubles (see other article, this issue), won three grants under the program, for prenatal diagnostics, pathogen detection, and the detection of disease-specific mutations.

Adaptive TCR Technologies won five grants, for projects ranging from the prediction of drug response to biomarkers of type 1 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and vaccine efficacy. The company analyzes the T-cell and B-cell repertoire of individuals by next-generation sequencing using the Illumina platform. It recently started offering T-cell receptor profiling services to customers (IS 7/20/2010).

Human genome sequencing service provider Complete Genomics, which recently went public (IS 11/16/2010), also received funding, to sequence genomes for personal medicine.

Below is a list of all the sequencing-related grants awarded under the program, including the funding amount.


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