Technology from Biodesign Institute and Columbia University will be used alongside IBM’s DNA Transistor platform.

Roche negotiated a license to nanopore-based DNA base sensing and reading technologies from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University and the Columbia University Nanoscience Center. The firm claims that these new technologies could help take the cost of sequencing a whole human genome down to well under $1,000.

The technologies will be used by Roche’s sequencing center and collaborators 454 Life Sciences and IBM to develop and commercialize a single-molecule nanopore DNA sequencer. The deal was brokered by Arizona State University’s technology transfer arm, Arizona Technology Enterprises, and includes sponsored research funding to help the academic researchers progress development of the technology toward commercialization.

“We believe that the DNA reading technologies from the Biodesign Institute are the most advanced available and will play an important role in our nanopore sequencing system,” says Thomas Schinecker, president of Roche’s 454 Life Sciences. “This will complement the DNA Transistor technology from our previously announced collaboration with IBM very well to form the core of a superior platform for extremely fast, very low-cost genome sequencing.”

IBM’s DNA Transistor technology is designed to control and slow the movement of DNA as it passes through the nanopore in a silicone strip. The DNA reading technology licensed from the Biodesign Institute and Columbia University will be used to decode the bases as the molecule passes through. Both technologies exploit semiconductor-based nanopores, which Roche says have advantages over protein-based nanoproes in terms of control, robustness, scalability, and production. 

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