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Genomes for $100?
PRINCETON, N.J.—Hoping to achieve widespread commercial adoption of genome sequencing technology, Battelle Ventures LP has led the $5.1 million Series A funding round of BioNanomatrix Inc., a Philadelphia-based company developing and commercializing several platforms designed to dramatically reduce the time and cost needed to analyze the genome.
Princeton, N.J.-based Battelle Ventures' General Partner Tracy Warren says the $220 million venture fund has monitored the progress of BioNanomatrix's analytic technology since its inception in 2003 as a $6 million Department of Defense project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency at Princeton University.
"BioNanomatrix has the potential to successfully commercialize a truly disruptive technology— one that could significantly reduce the time, complexity and cost dynamics of sequencing the genome and carrying out genetic analyses," Warren says.
BioNanomatrix CEO Dr. Michael Boyce-Jacino explains that the company's whole genome imaging and analysis technology enables nanoscale identification and analysis of the entire genome, delivering single-molecule sensitivity in a highly parallel, high-throughput format.
"We use a toll booth analogy to describe the technology," Boyce-Jacino says. "We use the technology to take a mixture of DNA molecules and sort them out at the single molecule level. We also take the DNA strands and unwind them like a ball of string, stretching them out linearly and treating them like a bar code. Their tiny nanochannels make it possible to individually observe, identify and assess long, intact molecules of DNA, epigenetic markers and other proteins on a single-molecule basis."
"What struck as being truly unique was the idea of using a nanofluidic platform to enable DNA linearization," Warren says. "This is a program that can be applied to numerous life science applications."
But Warren is most excited about the potential application for BioNanomatrix's to dramatically slash the cost of whole genome sequencing and analysis.
"We are developing analytic platforms based on this technology that will rapidly and cost-effectively provide ultra-high-resolution analyses of genomic, epigenomic and proteomic information," Boyce-Jacino explains. "BioNanomatrix's nanoscale technologies make possible the cost-efficient manufacture of nanochips that are compatible with off-the-shelf optics, allowing the company to develop advanced analytic systems at a moderate cost."
Warren says the marketplace has been clamoring for significant reductions in genome sequencing and analysis costs, with such publicly declared targets as the $1,000 genome. She notes that BioNanomatrix was recently awarded an $8.8 million federal grant with its collaborator Complete Genomics Inc., to develop a system capable of producing the $100 genome.
"Today, the high cost and complexity of obtaining and analyzing these data have greatly limited their broad utility for gene discovery, clinical diagnostics and pharmaceutical research and development," Warren says. "Achieving this combination of speed, accuracy and cost reduction could transform the use of genomic analyses, making it a practical vehicle for a widely expanded range of applications."