By Monica Heger
Oxford Nanopore today said it has raised £25 million ($41 million) to support the development of its GridIon system for nanopore-based exonuclease and strand sequencing, as well as protein analysis.
Both new and existing investors led the private placement of ordinary shares, including Lansdowne Partners, IP Group, Invesco Perpetual, Redmile Group, Illumina and other undisclosed investors. The funding adds to £49 million ($81 million) that the company has raised since it was formed in 2005, including an $18 million investment from Illumina in 2009.
Oxford Nanopore CEO Gordon Sanghera told In Sequence that the funding will allow the company to validate its technology and to start scaling production units. Technology validation will include "interacting with key users who represent the spectrum of the particular application area, whether it's protein analysis or sequencing, and then ultimately, through to commercialization," he said.
Those key users could include early customers of the GridIon system who are testing the platform and sending samples back to the company, as well as partners in the sample prep and bioinformatics fields.
Earlier this year, for instance, the company announced it would collaborate with Accelrys to develop software that could analyze sequence data from its system (IS 3/22/2011).
The funds will see the company through that process and "allow us to develop the key benefits and applications of the product with the key users," Sanghera said.
In March, the company told In Sequence that it had 15 systems in use internally and another 20 in development (IS 3/15/2011). Sanghera would not reveal whether the company now had additional systems, nor whether the recent funding would be sufficient to bring the system to commercialization. However, he did say that the company does have a commercial launch date in mind, although it is not yet ready to publicly disclose that date.
"We want to make sure that the technology does what it says on the tin before we tie ourselves to any hard and fast dates," he said.
The GridIon system is being developed to support applications in exonuclease sequencing, strand sequencing, and protein analysis. While the current round of funding will support all three areas, Sanghera did not divulge how that would be broken down.
Aside from technology validation, Sanghera said that the company continues to partner with and license technology from academic collaborators, and is open to working with "not just existing partners, but new potential partners."
When the company first launched in 2005, it focused on developing biological nanopores, but has since expanded into solid-state nanopores, both internally and through collaborations, most recently through the licensing of technology from Harvard University for graphene-based nanopore sequencing.
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