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Roche and IBM developing DNA-sequencing technology

Roche and IBM are collaborating to develop a nanopore-based sequencer that will read and decode human DNA quickly and efficiently, with the aim of accelerating human genome analysis and advancing personalized healthcare.

The novel ‘DNA Transistor’ technology developed by IBM Research, which is the focus of the agreement, will offer true single-molecule sequencing by decoding molecules of DNA as they are threaded through a nanometer-sized pore in a silicon chip. The approach holds the promise of considerable advantages in cost, throughput, scalability and speed compared to sequencing technologies currently available or in development.

‘By merging computational biology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology skills, we are moving closer to producing a system that can quickly and accurately translate DNA into medically relevant genetic information,’ said Ajay Royyuru, Senior Manager of the Computational Biology Department at IBM Research. ‘The challenge of all nanopore-based sequencing technologies is to slow and control the motion of the DNA through the nanopore.

‘We are developing the technology to achieve this so that the reader can accurately decode the DNA sequence.’

Ultimately, the technology has the potential to improve throughput and reduce costs to achieve the vision of whole human genome sequencing at a cost of $100 to $1000.

‘Sequencing is an increasingly critical tool for personalized healthcare. It can provide the individual genetic information necessary for the effective diagnosis and targeted treatment of diseases,’ explained Manfred Baier, Head of Roche Applied Science. ‘We are confident that this powerful technology…will make low-cost whole-genome sequencing and its benefits available to the marketplace faster than previously thought possible.’

As part of the agreement, Roche will fund continued development of the technology at IBM and provide additional resources and expertise through collaboration with Roche’s sequencing subsidiary, 454 Life Sciences. Roche will develop and market all products based on the technology.

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Informatics  •  Novel Technologies


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