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NIH Awards $14.5 Million to Fund New Sequencing Technologies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced today that it has awarded $14.5 million to eight groups developing new sequencing technologies.

The funding is part of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program, which began in 2004 with the goal of driving down the cost of sequencing. The grants, which total $4.5 million in the first year, will support a range of techniques, including nanopore sequencing technology and microfluidics, and will fund efforts over two to four years.

"While we continue to support many research projects centered on the development of nanopore technology, some of the new grants focus on additional unique approaches to sequencing DNA," NHGRI Genome Technology Program Director Jeffery Schloss, said in a statement. "Despite discussion about approaching the goal of sequencing a genome for only $1,000, many challenges remain in terms of containing costs and achieving a high quality of DNA sequencing data."

Among the groups receiving funding under this round of grants is Mark Akeson's team at the University of California, Santa Cruz, which was awarded $2.29 million over three years to develop a nanopore sequencing technology that uses a sensor to identify each nucleotide.

Researchers at Illumina were awarded $592,000 over two years to create a hybrid protein solid-state nanopore array system, in order to combine computer chip fabrication methods with biological nanopores. The group will be led by Boyan Boyanov.

Marija Drndic's team at the University of Pennsylvania was awarded $880,000 over two years to develop a synthetic graphene nanopore.

Also receiving funding is Caerus Molecular Diagnostics, a startup based in Mountain View, Calif., that is developing single-molecule sequencing technology. The group, led by Javier Farinas, plans to use an engineered enzyme switch to convert the product of a single-molecule DNA sequencing reaction into many copies of a reporter molecule that are easily detected. The firm was awarded $701,000 over three years.

Another Mountain View, Calif.-based firm called Eve Biomedical plans to study a carbon nanotube array system for sequencing DNA. Theofilos Kotseroglou will lead the firm's group, which was awarded $500,000 over two years for the project.
Meanwhile, a team from the Scripps Research Institute was awarded $4.4 million over four years. The group will be led by M. Reza Ghadiri and is working on a protein nanopore array system to enable sequencing of tens of thousands of DNA molecules in parallel.

Jay Shendure's group at the University of Washington was awarded $1.7 million over three years to develop new molecular biology techniques to stitch together genomes across long distances.

Finally, researchers at the University of California, San Diego led by Kun Zhang and Xiaohua Huang were awarded $3.7 million over four years to develop a microfluidics-based system to enable the sequencing of a single mammalian cell.

NIH noted that these grants are the last that will be awarded through the NHGRI's Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program.