Single strand DNA from fatum nativitas specimen
DNA sequencing: Driving new biotech companie

The genomics-based biotech industry is booming, according to BusinessWeek.  A recent example is Plexxikon, a US start-up that was acquired for a healthy US$935 million in February.  They developed a new cancer therapy by analyzing the genome sequences of melanoma cells to identify a key genetic mutation.  That type of genomic sequence analysis is possible thanks to the fast-paced development of next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies.

It took more than 10 years and US$2.7 billion to sequence the first human genome (Human Genome Project), whereas it’s now doable in weeks and costs have dropped to around US$10,000.  Clearly, NGS is getting faster, cheaper and more accessible to labs and companies of all sizes, including start-ups.

So how can you get your hands on NGS technologies to benefit your R&D programs?

You can get NGS services from various research facilities, including The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) and other Ontario platforms.  Complete genome sequencing and analysis is also accessible from companies like Complete Genomics.

Demand is driving development and new instruments coming onto the market, such as Ion Torrent and Illumina’s MiSeq, may be a better fit for smaller companies.  These instruments are literally benchtop, more affordable and easier to use.  They are geared towards targeted sequencing projects, including clinical applications and diagnostics, which could be a great fit for many genomics start-ups.

It’s important to note that while NGS technologies continue to develop at a rapid pace, real challenges remain around analyzing the sheer amount of data generated by genome sequencing efforts.  There are huge business opportunities out there for companies that can develop solutions to these challenges.   But that’s another blog all together.

Helen Petropoulos

Helen Petropoulos is part of the Business Development team at the Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI). She helps Ontario scientists and biotech companies bridge the gap between basic research and commercialization. She’s also worked in consulting and in the pharmaceutical industry as a postdoctoral fellow. See more…