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Oxford Nanopore and Harvard University agreement

Tue 5th August 2008

Harvard University and Oxford Nanopore Technologies Announce Licence Agreement to Advance Nanopore DNA Sequencing and other Applications

August 5, 2008 Cambridge, Mass., USA, Oxford, UK. – Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development (“Harvard”) and Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd (“Oxford Nanopore”) today announced an agreement to progress nanopore science by integrating Harvard discoveries with technology in development at Oxford Nanopore.  

Under the terms of this agreement with Harvard, Oxford Nanopore has exclusive rights to develop and commercialise a number of nanopore technological breakthroughs developed in the laboratories of three investigators at Harvard and their collaborators at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the US Department of Commerce. The investigators include: Professors Daniel Branton, George Church and Jene Golovchenko at Harvard; David Deamer and Mark Akeson at UCSC and John Kasianowicz at NIST.

These academics have pioneered the research of DNA translocation through nanopores and the potential for DNA sequencing using this method.  This is complementary to the work of Professor Hagan Bayley, the founder of Oxford Nanopore Technologies.  Professor Bayley pioneered the field of nanopores as sensors of single molecules, with a specific focus on the identification of DNA bases.

Oxford Nanopore will also support fundamental nanopore research at Harvard, facilitating further advancement of the field and generating opportunities for further evolutions of nanopore sequencing technology.

“The inventions licensed to Oxford Nanopore resulted from strong collaboration across multiple disciplines at Harvard, and also with academic colleagues from outside of the University,” said Isaac T. Kohlberg, Senior Associate Provost and Chief Technology Development Officer at Harvard University. “This work and the agreement announced today are further validation of Harvard’s strong commitment to collaboration and innovation, and to ensuring that the work of our scientists is extended to benefit society more broadly.” 

Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore Technologies, added: “We are proud to collaborate with this world-class research team. Harvard’s long record of excellence in nanopore research means that this agreement encompasses many aspects of nanopore technology.  Through this partnership and agreements with other prestigious institutions, Oxford Nanopore takes the leading position in transforming nanopores from science into technologies that will benefit researchers and people everywhere.”

Oxford Nanopore is developing nanopores for use in DNA sequencing and the analysis of other molecules. A nanopore is a small hole; this inner diameter is small enough to be used in the direct identification of many single molecules, without using chemical labels.  This technology has the potential to deliver a dramatic reduction in the cost and speed of DNA sequencing, benefiting basic medical research and further the field of personalized medicine.

A dramatic improvement in sequencing technology would have a profound effect on life science and medical research, furthering genome research and the development of new medical diagnostics, treatments and strategies. There are many additional applications of sequencing, within the fields of defense, energy and agriculture.

The single molecule analysis platform being developed at Oxford Nanopore is label-free, and is therefore positioned to deliver a step-change in the power and cost of DNA sequencing.  While current technologies rely on expensive fluorescent labels, optical equipment for signal detection and informatics to translate image data into sequence data, nanopores bypass the optical detection by providing a direct electrical recording of DNA base identification.  The method is highly scalable through silicon chip arrays.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


Harvard University   
Larry Schlossman            
Office of Technology Development

Oxford Nanopore Technologies    +44 (0) 870 486 1966
Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO
Zoe McDougall, Communications

Feinstein Kean Healthcare
Krystle Ficco                +1 (617) 761-6702

About Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development
The Harvard Office of Technology Development (OTD) is responsible for all activities pertaining to the evaluation, patenting and licensing of new inventions and discoveries made at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School. OTD also serves to further the development of Harvard technologies through the establishment of sponsored research collaborations with industry. OTD’s mission is to promote the public good by fostering innovation and translating new inventions made at Harvard into useful products available and beneficial to society.

The Harvard Nanopore Group
The Harvard Nanopore Group is led by Professor Daniel Branton and Professor Jene Golovchenko.  The group has been investigating electronic methods of very rapidly detecting, characterizing and sequencing single molecules of DNA. A detector consisting of a single nanopore in a thin, insulating, solid-state membrane could mimic the function of a-hemolysin pores in lipid bilayers, while serving as a platform for integrated electronic detection devices.  The group’s research has lead to the development of a new ion beam based method for creating nanoscale structures in semiconductors called "ion beam sculpting".   

The Group is also developing other applications that may utilize the sensitivity and speed of nanopore probing, and is investigating the physics of DNA polymer movement through the confined space of a nanopore, coordinating the application of material science tools to fabricate solid-state nanopores, and developing the associated biochemistry, molecular biology, electronics, and signal processing to effect molecular recognition.

Professor Daniel Branton, Higgins Professor of Biology Emeritus, Harvard University
Professor Branton’s research areas include Nanopore technology and single molecule probing, molecular organization of cell membranes and cell biology.  He has held positions at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA and the University of California, Berkeley.

Professor Jene Golovchenko Rumsford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics – Harvard University.
Professor Jene Golovchenko has had a broad research career, encompassing research posts at Harvard University, Aarhus University in Denmark, in industry, at Bell Labs, in national laboratories at Brookhaven and Livermore and at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also a member of the Rowland Institute for Science, an interdisciplinary non-profit basic research institute in Cambridge.

Professor Golovchenko specializes in studying the fundamental interactions of radiation and matter and the application of this knowledge to revealing and controlling the properties of materials.  

Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd.
Oxford Nanopore is developing nanopore technology, a revolutionary method of molecular detection and analysis with potential for DNA sequencing, diagnostics, drug development and defence applications.  The company was founded on the science of Professor Hagan Bayley of the University of Oxford, who pioneered the stochastic sensing of single molecules using engineered protein nanopores, and has published a method to differentiate between DNA bases using a nanopore.

The Company’s BASE™ technology is a system for DNA sequencing that employs nanopores to process, identify and record DNA bases in sequence. In contrast to current sequencing technologies, nanopores offer a potential method of directly sequencing DNA at single molecule resolution. This removes the need for amplification or labelling, and allows detection from an electrical signal rather than by fluorescence-based CCD imaging. In order to make a breakthrough in speed and cost, other competing technologies require step changes in optics, computation and CCD camera technologies. Nanopores provide an alternative path to a step-change in the power and cost of DNA sequencing.

Recent interest in the “race for the $1000 genome" illustrates the needs for a sequencing technology that is affordable and powerful enough to provide more researchers with affordable sequencing power.  This is expected to enable an exponential increase in research and understanding of the genome, and accelerate new developments in medicine, agriculture, energy, biodiversity, evolutionary biology, genealogy and many other fields.

The nanopore molecular detection system is powerful and versatile beyond its DNA sequencing potential. It can be adapted to detect a wide range of molecules, including other nucleic acids, proteins, small organic molecules and ionic species.

Oxford Nanopore Technologies holds license agreements for the development and commercialization of nanopore technology with the foremost institutions in nanopore science.  These include the University of Oxford, Harvard University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, Texas A&M, the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  This places the Company in a unique and leading position for bringing first and future generations of nanopore technology to the market.

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