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IBM to Enter DNA Sequencing Field with Nanopore Technology

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – IBM announced today that it is developing a nanoscale DNA sequencer, with the goal of sequencing a human genome at a cost of under $1,000.

The firm is one of several companies or researchers that have been awarded at least $5.7 million from the National Human Genome Research Institute this year to support their efforts in developing technologies for sequencing a human genome at low cost. The grants are part of NHGRI's Revolutionary Genome Sequencing Technologies grant program, which also is known as the "$1,000 Genome" program.

IBM said in a statement that scientists from four fields — nanofabrication, microelectronics, physics, and biology — are working together to "master the technique that threads a long DNA molecule through a three nanometer wide hole, known as a nanopore, in a silicon chip." The firm said that its researchers are working on a process for controlling the rate at which a DNA strand moves through the nanopore so that a reader can accurately decode what is in the DNA.

Though NHGRI has not yet issued a statement regarding the firms and researchers that have received grants under the $1,000 Genome project, it listed the grantees on its database. IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center reportedly received $557,000 in FY 2009 for its development efforts on the nanopore system, which the firm calls a "DNA Transistor."

As reported yesterday by GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication In Sequence, other grantees include Ion Torrent Systems, which is a Guilford, Conn.-based start up founded by 454 Life Sciences (now part of Roche) co-founder Jonathan Rothberg. Other firms getting grants included San Diego-based Electronic Biosciences and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Lightspeed Genomics.