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Roche, IBM Co-Developing Nanopore-based DNA Sequencing Technology

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Roche and IBM today announced they will be co-developing a nanopore-based technology that will directly read and sequence human DNA.

The technology, developed by IBM Research and called DNA Transistor technology, offers true single molecule sequencing by decoding molecules of DNA while they are threaded through a nanometer-sized pore in a silicon chip, according to the two companies. They added that the technology could offer "significant advantages" in cost, throughput, scalability, and speed compared to other sequencing technologies either available or in development.

Under the partnership, Roche will fund continued development of the technology at IBM and provide other resources and expertise with its sequencing subsidiary, 454 Life Sciences. Roche will develop and market all products based on the technology.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

IBM first disclosed in the fall that it was developing the technology under a grant from
the National Human Genome Research Institute for the exploration of new technologies that could allow for the sequencing of the human genome at low cost.

Ultimately, the technology could improve throughput and reduce costs to where the whole human genome can be sequenced at a cost of between $100 and $1,000, Roche and IBM said.

"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," Manfred Baier, head of Roche Applied Science, said in a statement.

The collaboration will leverage IBM's expertise in microelectronics, information technology, and computational biology, and Roche's expertise in medical diagnostics and genome sequencing.

"The challenge of all nanopore-based sequencing technologies is to slow and control the motion of the DNA through the nanopore," Ajay Royyuru, senior manager of the computational biology department at IBM Research, said. "We are developing the technology to achieve this so that the reader can accurately decode the DNA sequence."