Roche said today it acquired Genia Technologies, the developer of a single-molecule, semiconductor-based, DNA sequencing platform using nanopore technology. The deal could net Genia shareholders up to $350 million.
According to Roche, Genia’s sequencing technology is expected to reduce the price of sequencing while increasing speed and sensitivity. “The acquisition of Genia is a further step for Roche to introduce a potentially disruptive technology to the market,” Roland Diggelmann, COO of Roche Diagnostics, said in a statement.
The acquisition answers the question of what presence Roche wants to have in sequencing following its ill-fated 2012 effort to acquire Illumina for $6.7 billion—the sequencing giant held out for a higher price—then opting last year to shut down its 454 Life Sciences subsidiary and eliminate jobs based there, while restructuring its diagnostic businesses, in part by creating a new sequencing unit.
Roche agreed to pay Genia shareholders $125 million cash upfront, plus up to $225 million in contingent payments tied to achieving undisclosed milestones.
Upon completion of the deal, Roche said Genia will be integrated into its new Roche Sequencing Unit and will continue to focus on development of Genia’s sequencing platform.
Founded in 2009, Genia has focused on developing a sequencing system that allows for single molecule, electrical real-time analysis without the need for complicated optics, labels, amplification, or fluidics.
In 2012, Genia launched a collaboration for its system that would combine Genia’s standard complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit, with new protein constructs developed by George Church, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, who is also founding core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University; and a Tag-based sequencing chemistry approach using an electronic Nano-SBS system developed by Jingyue Ju, Ph.D., Samuel Ruben-Peter G. Viele Professor of Engineering at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science with John J. Kasianowicz, Ph.D. and his group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Last year, the three-way collaboration won a three-year, $5.25 million Revolutionary Genome Sequencing Technologies–The $1,000 Genome grant from NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Columbia, Harvard, and Genia were jointly awarded the largest grant from the latest NHGRI initiative, which distributed about $17 million under its Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program to eight research teams developing technology aimed at driving down the cost of DNA sequencing.
Genia’s technology uses a semiconductor integrated circuit where an automated assembly of nanopores in a lipid bilayer allows for measurement of single molecules. Genia’s sensor technology and its NanoTag chemistry are intended to enable accurate base calls, overcoming many limitations faced by other nanopore-based sequencing efforts.