Amgen’s investment in the developer of the first portable DNA/RNA sequencer builds on other investments in genetic analysis.
Despite advances in genetic sequencing technology, most approaches provide results at the end of sequencing as large data dumps. These runs typically last a minimum of several hours to several days. However, the sequencing technology of UK-based Oxford Nanopore Technologies is different. It is based on the use of a combination of nanopores, nanoscale holes made by proteins contained within a synthetic membrane, and electronics. The technology provides information in real time, facilitating diagnostics as well as other biological research applications, including large-scale human genomics, cancer and environmental research. Notably, the equipment is small, portable and scalable (pocket-sized to bench scale), which is not the case for more traditional sequencers.
With these advantages, it isn’t surprising that the company has raised over $650 million and attracted investors such as Illumina, a leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies. Most recently, Oxford attracted an additional $66 million from Amgen, which bought shares in the privately held company.
Amgen is looking to further build its genetic sequencing capabilities. This investment follows its acquisition of deCODE Genetics for $415 million, which took place in 2012. “Oxford Nanopore’s long-read sequencing capability creates a window into parts of the genome that have been out of reach, as well as giving us a much better handle on structural variants that confer risk of a wide variety of diseases,” said Kári Stefánsson, founder of Amgen subsidiary deCODE Genetics.