Basel, Switzerland-based pharma giant Roche announced on June 2 that it has acquired Genia Technologies of Mountain View, CA, a next-gen sequencing technology company whose nanopore-based platform allows for rapid DNA sequencing using integrated circuits.
The $125 million acquisition, with a potential further payout of $225 million to investors upon completion of certain milestones, is part of Roche’s plan to develop its own sequencing platform on which it can base its diagnostic products. The company bought 454 Life Sciences, an early competitor in the sequencing technology race, in 2007, and also announced a partnership with Pacific Biosciences, another next-gen sequencing company, in September of last year.
The deal follows Roche’s failed bid for San Diego-based Illumina in 2012. Illumina, currently the leader in DNA sequencing technology with over 70% of the global sequencer market, recently broke through the $1000 price barrier for whole-genome sequencing with their new HiSeqX 10 system.
According to an article this week on Xconomy.com by Bernadette Tansey, the issue is that Illumina’s $1000 price point is only obtainable if an organization purchases a complete ten-machine bank from the company for $10 million. In other words, costs are still a major barrier to wide-scale adoption of personalized medicine.
Genia’s technology can potentially lower these costs by eliminating the need to replicate DNA, cut it up into fragments and then put it back together using expensive, heavy-duty computing power.
Instead of detecting nucleotide bases using light, Genia’s platform utilizes bioengineered nanopores, each of which can sequence an entire DNA string. In the Xconomy article, Tansey states that, “the system can be scaled up to include many thousands of those nanopores, which could enable the experimental system to sequence large amounts of DNA quickly.”
Genia will remain a standalone company under the umbrella of the Roche Sequencing Unit, which is led by Dan Zabrowski and headquartered in Pleasanton, CA. Genia’s co-founder and CEO Stefan Roever will continue to run the company with his present management team.
In order to ramp up development of the Genia platform, Roche plans to double or triple the company’s 35-person staff.
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