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Environmental responsibility

Oxford Nanopore's contribution and commitment to environmental science is baked into the design of our technology; years ago we made a decision to make the first portable, sequencing device — and we chose to make it accessible, not only in terms of pricing, but shipping it to any location and providing online support.

A thriving community of scientists use our portable sequencing devices in environmental applications. These include plant and animal biodiversity, the analysis of ocean or glacial microbiomes to understand the impact of climate change, or the protection of wildlife.

We continue to support these customers by developing devices, kits and analysis tools that support their work and technical support to enable success. Frequently their science is performed in the field rather than in labs – close to the need of environmental insights.

A team of scientists took the MinION portable sequencer to the most extreme environment to understand more about the biology of the environment.

More examples

Our own direct actions

Recycling and repurposing consumables – We encourage users of our technology to return their used flow cells back to us once they have reached the end of their useful life. This enables us to recycle the electronic hardware. In 2020 we began to provide shippable return ‘bins’ to make recycling even easier for our customers and to minimise transportation.

Click here to find out how you can participate and help us reach our flow cell recycling goal.

We have and are in the process of optimising other business operations too.

For example:

  • Packaging: When we ship products that need to be kept at a constant temperature in transit; we use recycled boxes that are lined with sustainable, natural, wool-lined packaging. 
  • Our buildings: We aim to reduce, reuse and recycle all waste from our operations.  Our offices and labs include recycling facilities for paper and other recyclable items.  The Café at Oxford Nanopore’s headquarters does not offer single-use plastics, instead providing paper takeaway materials, larger condiment bottles and metal cutlery (with wooden cutlery for takeaway usage). Each employee is provided with a reusable coffee cup.
  • Manufacturing processes: We are constantly reviewing and optimising our manufacturing processes and in particular our use of materials which have an environmental impact. To that aim we are developing new manufacturing processes which have less reliance on solvents, with the aim to achieve our first solvent free process in 2020.
  • Cycle to work facilities: We actively participate in the ‘Cycle to work’ scheme, and provide our employees with secure facilities in which to store bikes during the work day and appropriate shower/changing facilities – reducing the number of people driving to work, and our CO2 emissions.

Case study

Keeping cool with wool

We wanted to ensure our packaging was as recyclable as possible.

Given the nature of our products, they need to be kept within a certain temperature range during distribution. Using a wool lining seemed like the perfect solution.

Wool is one of the most sustainable natural materials, being available in abundance as a by-product of rearing sheep and being fully biodegradable after it has fulfilled its purpose.

The Woolcool Insulated Box Set consists of a strong, robust outer cardboard box, containing two insulating Fleece Liners.

We encourage our customers to return used products in the same packaging, where we reuse or recycle the materials, creating a closed-loop system.

Putting our tech to use to achieve a greater understanding of threats to our environment…

Many members of the Nanopore Community are using nanopore technology to gain a greater understanding of our environment and the threats posed to us by climate change. Below are some examples:

Understanding our oceans with portable DNA sequencing technology

Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks took a group of students to sea and set-up a lab on the Sikuliaq. They performed DNA analysis of seawater, in order to understand the biology of the Alaskan ocean. They used MinION, a portable DNA sequencer along with MinIT, a powerful and portable analysis device.

Large research vessels like the Sikuliaq help scientists study the ocean. DNA analysis can help scientists identify the microorganisms that live there to gain a better understanding of the ocean ecosystem.

Shaili Johri: Unraveling shark secrets: sequencing genomes and microbiomes for research and conservation

Up to 50% of shark species are threatened by extinction, due to the international demand for shark fins and other shark parts or derivatives, with ~300 million sharks killed by humans per year.

Conservation of endangered populations and an understanding of their evolutionary adaptations are both difficult when genomic information is lacking for over 50% of shark species. Globally, the areas where sharks are most endangered also correlates with the areas of highest data deficiency; i.e. we don't know enough about the sharks in these locations.

The goal of Shaili and her team has been to reduce the data deficiency of shark populations by performing on-site genomic investigations in shark biodiversity hotspots.

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