Golden Goose Award recognises pioneering nanopore scientists David Deamer, Mark Akeson, Daniel Branton

Washington, D.C. – Three early pioneers of nanopore sequencing were recognised Wednesday by the Golden Goose Awards, a prestigious U.S. honour recognising scientists for research that has had a profound impact on society. The awards, co-hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) and the Association of American Universities, named David Deamer and Mark Akeson from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Daniel Branton from Harvard whose ideas sparked the development of nanopore sequencing, paving the way for creation of Oxford Nanopore Technologies years later.

Now in its 12th year, the Golden Goose Award recognises U.S. scientists who took risks to pursue scientific research benefiting humanity.

This year’s award celebrates Deamer, Akeson and Branton for teaming up to advance a flash of inspiration that struck Deamer in 1989, when he envisioned pulling a single strand of DNA through a channel to read its genetic sequence. The AAAS, in announcing the award, said: “Despite the rejection from top-tier journals and the scientific community’s skepticism, the road to success took 30 years of research, persistence and a bit of serendipitous fortune to prove many wrong.

Yet several more roads had to converge before the successful commercialisation of this early idea. Just as Deamer, Akeson and Branton were developing their research, Professor Hagan Bayley from Oxford University had similarly spent years working on single molecule sensing using nanopores while at Texas A&M. He had moved back to Oxford, where he met Spike Willcocks and Gordon Sanghera and the three conceived of commercialising this technology. Sanghera and Willcocks then flew to California to meet with Deamer and Akeson, who supported their efforts. It took many more years of intense R&D to develop the first scalable product, the MinION, and then more still to advance the platform to where it is now, serving more than 43,000 community users across 120 countries. Today there are more than 2,600 patents in the portfolio.

Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore Technologies, commented:I extend heartfelt congratulations to nanopore scientists David Deamer, Mark Akeson and Daniel Branton for this well-deserved distinction. These scientists took an original idea and spent decades overcoming community scepticism to explore its transformative potential. This award reminds us of the serendipity and magic inherent in the scientific process and underscores the deep roots and interconnectedness of our global scientific community. Our hundreds of in-house innovators are raising a glass today to these early pioneers.

Mark Akeson, Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, commented:I believe there is genius in the research and development teams at Oxford Nanopore. Prior to 2012, I would have been thrilled if nanopore sequencing could read a 1,000 base-long DNA strand using an instrument the size of a large printer. In fact, their effort has led to devices that are smaller than a cell phone and that can directly read single DNA strands more than 2 million bases in length with 99+% accuracy. And, to top it off, the MinION sequencer is a beautiful object with the aesthetic of a classic British sportscar. This is world-class engineering in all respects.

Dave Deamer, Research Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, commented:

"Nanopore sequencing would still be just an idea if Gordon and Spike had not been bold enough to think that it might actually work. The collaboration that followed is a perfect example of a handshake between academic and industry partners which led to the wonderful success being celebrated by the Golden Goose award."

Read more about the Golden Goose Award here.