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Oxford Nanopore to Commercialize DNA Strand Sequencing this Year; Illumina not Involved

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By Julia Karow

This article was originally published Feb.1.

Oxford Nanopore Technologies plans to commercialize its DNA strand sequencing technology this year, making it likely the first company to bring a nanopore sequencer to market.

The UK-based company said last week that it intends to provide "DNA strand sequencing products directly to customers" this year, with no involvement from Illumina, with whom it has a commercialization agreement for its exonuclease sequencing technology. Oxford Nanopore has been developing strand sequencing and exonuclease sequencing in parallel; both can also be used for direct RNA analysis.

A company spokesperson declined to disclose the names of customers the firm is working with to test the strand sequencing technology, or details about the planned commercialization.

Oxford Nanopore plans to show DNA strand sequencing data "and other disruptive features" of its "electronics-based sensing devices" during a presentation by its chief technology officer, Clive Brown, at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference in Marco Island, Fla., on Feb. 17.

The spokesperson noted that no DNA sequencing companies have had access to the confidential information about the technology that will be presented during the meeting.

The company's strand sequencing method combines a protein nanopore with an undisclosed processive enzyme. The firm licenses related technology that was developed by Mark Akeson's group at the University of California Santa Cruz. A couple of years ago, Akeson and colleagues showed that they could control the translocation of DNA through an alpha hemolysin nanopore by coupling the pore to a DNA polymerase, a processive enzyme (IS 9/28/2010).

Around the same time, Hagan Bayley, Oxford Nanopore's co-founder, and his group at the University of Oxford showed that they could distinguish all four DNA bases, as well as methylated bases, in immobilized single-stranded DNA using a modified alpha hemolysin pore (IS 10/12/2010).

Last year, Oxford Nanopore presented a modular electronic nanopore sensing platform, called GridIon, which it said can support any type of nanopore application, including strand sequencing, exonuclease sequencing, and protein analysis (IS 3/15/2012).

Besides strand sequencing, the company has been working on exonuclease sequencing, which uses an enzyme to cleave off single nucleotides from a DNA strand that feed into a protein nanopore for detection. Three years ago, Oxford Nanopore signed an exclusive agreement with Illumina for the commercialization of that technology, and Illumina made an $18 million equity investment in the firm (IS 1/13/2009).

Oxford Nanopore's spokesperson declined to comment on the status of the exonculease sequencing technology, or how an acquisition of Illumina by Roche might affect their partnership. Illumina said last month that it is indeed working on a single-molecule sequencing technology but did not mention Oxford Nanopore specifically (IS 1/10/2012).

In addition, Oxford Nanopore is working on a future generation of nanopore sensing devices that use solid-state nanopores instead of protein nanopores. Last month, the company opened an R&D group in the US that will focus in this area (IS 1/17/2012).

Further, the company is developing a protein analysis technology that uses ligands and protein nanopores to detect target proteins electronically.


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

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