Oxford Nanopore to open registration for ‘MinION’ Access Programme
Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd., an Oxford University spin out that develops proprietary molecular detection systems, has announced a MinION Access Programme (MAP). The programme, starting in late November, is designed to give life-science researchers access to the patented MinION device – a small, hand held DNA sequencer that runs from a USB port.
IP Group plc – Portfolio company Oxford Nanopore was incorporated in 2005 to develop disruptive technologies for the analysis of single molecules. Based around the research of Professor Hagan Bayley, University of Oxford, the company has developed two platforms, GridION and MinION. Both are adaptable for the sequencing of DNA, RNA, and analysis of proteins and small molecules.
The MAP package includes at least one MinION system, regular supply of flowcells and sequencing preparation kits. Participants are required to pay a $1,000 deposit (returned on completion) for the device and cover all shipping costs. Additional flowcells are available to MAP participants for $999. Oxford Nanopore says, “This is a substantial but initially controlled programme designed to give life-science researchers access to nanopore sequencing technology at no risk and minimal cost.”
The MinION system can sequence tens of kilobases in one read. A single-stranded DNA molecule is guided through a protein nanopore, under an ionic current, using a DNA enzyme complex. When a nucleotide passes through the pore there will be a signature signal; decoding this signal holds the key to extrapolating the DNA sequence. The experiment is all done on a proprietary sensor array chip, making it highly scalable.
The company was looking to start selling the device last year. There was a delay due to issues with the sensor chip, which has subsequently been redesigned. Bloomberg quotes Charles Weston, an analyst at Numis Securities, as putting an estimated $1,000 price tag on the instrument. This price is in line with what we see in the MAP and would substantially bring down the cost of genetic sequencing. As with any disruptive technology, there will always be a number of setbacks due to the lack of data available. The MinION Access Programme is a way for Oxford Nanopore to collect high volumes of data and continue to test and improve the device. To that note, the company has not given any indication as to when the first sales will be made. To date the company has received £145 million of investment from a small base of investors. This includes the successful private placement of ordinary shares raising £40 million last month.
Although this programme is aimed at life-science researchers, this device will not be limited to the laboratory. There are a number of target markets, from personalised medicine to point of care diagnostics. Imagine a forensics specialist at the scene of a crime analysing samples and sequencing DNA without even stepping into the laboratory.
Zoe McDougall from Nanopore noted: “We aren’t giving any guidance at the moment on the timelines to a fully commercial product, which will depend on the progress of the MinION Access Programme (MAP) itself. The aim of the MAP is to let the genomics community tell us how the system performs in their hands and the areas that they think it is most useful.”
Oxford Nanopore is pushing the boundaries of science and cost. The question is can they make this profitable?
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