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Sequencing in the palm of your hand?
NEWCASTLE, U.K.—Under an agreement signed near the end of March, QuantuMDx Group (QMDx), a biotech company developing a range of portable technologies for diagnostics, DNA sequencing and proteomics, will engage in a research collaboration with the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) of the Singapore-based Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
Under this collaboration, IME will further advance QMDx's DNA sequencing nanowire biosensor to the point of commercialization. QMDx aims to be a pioneer in developing a "handheld, all-in-one DNA sequencer."
The device was invented by QMDx's chief scientific officer, Jonathan O'Halloran, and is currently in prototype form. The A*STAR collaboration is intended to leverage IME's silicon-based nanowire technology to develop biosensing technology that can simultaneously and rapidly detect large numbers of different cells and biomaterials.
According to the two companies, "The synergy of QMDx's proprietary molecular capture and IME's technology will soon deliver affordable, rapid and accurate clinical targeted DNA sequencing at the point of need."
According to Prof. Dim-Lee Kwong, the executive director of IME, "The collaboration with QMDx to deliver a technology breakthrough clearly demonstrates the potential of IME's cross-disciplinary expertise and capabilities in the bioelectronics industry."
IME was established to provide a research-and-development bridge between academia and industry and to add value to Singapore's semiconductor industry by developing strategic competencies, innovative technologies and intellectual property; enabling enterprises to be technologically competitive; and cultivating a technology talent pool to inject new knowledge to the industry. IME focuses on such areas as bioelectronics, medical devices, nanoelectronics, photonics, integrated circuit design and advanced packaging.
"Our collaboration with IME is of immense importance to QMDx. Not only will our partnership enable both parties to utilize our respective expertise to further develop and commercialize on-chip DNA sequencing, but it also represents a major milestone for QMDx as we embark on setting up operations in Singapore to benefit from the country's wealth of biotech expertise and state-of-the-art manufacturing and fabrication facilities," notes Elaine Warburton, CEO of QMDx.
QMDx's first commercial product, Q-POC, is scheduled to hit the market in 2013. As described by QMDx, the device will deliver affordable, rapid and accurate medical diagnosis in less than 20 minutes, reportedly with the same accuracy—both sensitivity and specificity—as any state-of-the-art full laboratory, but at the patient's side and at a fraction of the cost. The company is working with various partner companies to create disposable diagnostic cartridges for companion diagnostics, tuberculosis (TB), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), genetic testing and cardiovascular disease. The first commercial assays expected to be available for the device are in companion diagnostics and multidrug resistant infectious disease testing, including TB, HIV and STIs.
Still in development, with no planned release dates as yet, are the Q-SEQ portable genomic sequencer, which is what IME and QMDx are working to complete, and InVenio, a whole-proteome array.
The Q-SEQ will use QMDx's nanowire biosensors arrayed in various different formations and structures to provide both short reads and long reads. The company says that Q-SEQ "is being developed to undertake 'genomic sequencing while you wait, because 'shotgun sequencing,'" as QMDx describes current next-generation sequencing methods, "cannot provide the full story of variation, as it is unable to resolve, copy number variations large repeats and rearrangements"—specifically, the structural variation that makes up a significant proportion of human genetic variation. According to QMDx, a combination of shotgun and targeted long read-length sequencing will facilitate the "definitive de-novo sequencing platform and deliver true whole-genome sequencing, not the approximately 70-percent genome sequencing that shotgun platforms presently offer."