Oxford Nanopore announces Advisory Board, UCSC agreement

Oxford Nanopore Technologies Announces License Agreement with University of California, Santa Cruz, and formation of Technology Advisory Board

August 19th 2008, Oxford, UK. Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd (“Oxford Nanopore”) today announced the completion of an exclusive licence agreement to develop nanopore science developed at the University of California, Santa Cruz (“UCSC”), in the laboratories of Professors David Deamer and Mark Akeson.

Oxford Nanopore will also fund research in the laboratories of Professors Deamer and Akeson, who have pioneered the science of using protein nanopores to analyse DNA molecules. Applications of the platform include single-molecule DNA sequencing and molecular sensing. Advancement of this technology is expected to benefit basic medical research and further the field of personalised medicine.

This follows the recent announcement of an agreement with Harvard University to in-license a broad range of nanopore technologies that included some discoveries from UCSC. The Company also holds agreements with other leading institutions in nanopore science including the University of Oxford, Texas A&M, the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Together this places Oxford Nanopore in a unique and leading position for bringing first and future generations of nanopore technology to the market.

Technology Advisory Board

Oxford Nanopore also announced today that it has convened a group of the world’s leading nanopore researchers to form its Technical Advisory Board. This panel will include:
The Company’s founder, Professor Hagan Bayley of the University of Oxford

Professors Dan Branton and Jene Golovchenko of Harvard University

Professors David Deamer and Mark Akeson of the University of California, Santa Cruz

Professor Amit Meller of Boston University

Together, this group will give the Company unparalleled technical expertise in the development of Oxford Nanopore’s current and future nanopore sequencing technology. The Company’s first generation of nanopore sequencing, using BASETM technology, is poised to be the first label-free DNA sequencing system. By avoiding chemical labels and optical equipment to give a direct electrical readout that identifies DNA bases, a dramatic improvement in sequencing speed and cost would be expected.

“The science of nanopores is complex and challenging. We are very proud to have gathered a world-class panel of experts, from leading institutions in this field,” said Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore Technologies. “Our relationships with the Advisory Board members extend beyond pure technical advice; our support of research in the laboratories will further the science of nanopores. Oxford Nanopore now has the world’s best advisors and an excellent in-house development team of scientists and engineers. We are in a unique position to develop an early-to-market sequencing technology and improved versions in the future. A label-free approach to DNA sequencing would facilitate a transformation in genomics that could be likened to the broadband revolution.”

The expertise of this Technology Advisory Board encompasses many aspects of nanopore sequencing. This includes BASE(TM) sequencing, the method currently in development at Oxford Nanopore, which combines a biological nanopore with a processive enzyme arrayed on a silicon chip. Future generations of nanopore sequencing technologies may use solid-state nanopores, or may analyse single stranded nucleic acids. Each member of the Oxford Nanopore Technology Advisory Board has written numerous pioneering scientific publications and made important inventions relating to these aspects of nanopores.

More powerful and affordable DNA sequencing technology is expected to drive a revolution in the understanding of the genetic cause of disease and the development of new, targeted treatments for disease. The interest in this area is illustrated by the much-publicised pursuit of a “$1000 genome.

A label-free approach is expected to deliver truly powerful and affordable DNA analysis. Existing methods rely on expensive optical technologies, fluorescent labels and in some cases complex sample preparation, all of which is bypassed with nanopore sequencing. In addition, long read lengths would simplify the data re-assembly process and promise to provide routine access to previously challenging experiments.


Contact Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd +44 (0) 870 486 1966

Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO

Zoe McDougall, Communications

Notes to editors
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.

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 individual DNA molecules. 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 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.

Biographies of advisory board

Professor Hagan Bayley
Professor Bayley is Professor of Chemical Biology in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. Educated at the University of Oxford, Professor Bayley spent most of his academic career at leading US academic institutions, including Harvard, MIT, the University of Massachusetts and Texas A&M University. He returned to the UK in 2003 to his current post. Oxford's Chemistry department is now the largest in the western world, and it has recently completed the construction of state-of-the-art facilities for multidisciplinary chemistry research in which Professor Bayley's laboratory is housed. Professor Bayley's research interests lie in the exploration of membrane protein structure and function, and the use of molecular engineering techniques that transform these proteins into unique measurement systems for exploring the chemistry of individual molecules. Of particular interest are the analysis of DNA at the single molecule level, and the potential for ultra-fast gene sequencing using nanopores. Professor Bayley founded Oxford NanoLabs (now Oxford Nanopore) in 2005.

Professor David Deamer
Professor David Deamer was founder of the UCSC Nanopore Project, which is now co-directed by Professor Mark Akeson and involves faculty collaborators from UCSC and other institutions. The Project received a “$1000 Genome” grant from the NHGRI in 2005. In 1996, Professor Deamer was a co-author on the paper that first demonstrated single molecule analysis of nucleic acids using the alpha hemolysin nanopore. Professor Deamer and his collaborators now investigate physical properties of ‘single-stranded’ DNA and RNA molecules, with the aim of using alpha hemolysin to determine base sequences of nucleic acids. The team uses two approaches to analyze DNA in this way. In the first, a constant applied voltage pulls single-stranded DNA or RNA through the pore, permitting discrimination among single polymer molecules based on their nucleotide composition. The second approach is to capture a single duplex DNA molecule in the channel vestibule. Duplex DNA is too large to pass through the nanopore, but the molecular motions of the base pairs occupying the vestibule can be monitored in real time for tens-to-hundreds of milliseconds. In this voltage-pulse or 'tasting' mode, single base-pair resolution is achieved, suggesting that nanopore detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) is feasible.

Professor Mark Akeson
Professor Mark Akeson is Co-Director, UCSC Nanopore Laboratory and Adjunct Professor, Biomolecular Engineering - University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Akeson joined the Nanopore Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1996. He led a joint research effort between UCSC and Harvard University showing that sequence identity could be read along individual RNA molecules at thirty nucleotide resolution. Professor Akeson and his colleagues pioneered the use of nanopores to examine sequence-specific binding of DNA polymerases to individual DNA templates. Currently, Professor Akeson and his collaborators focus on two research areas: Firstly, the use of feedback control to analyse DNA/protein interactions at the single molecule level; and secondly, coupling of processive DNA-modifying enzymes to biological nanopores at millisecond temporal resolution.

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 for very rapidly detecting, characterising 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 alpha 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
Professor Branton is Higgins Professor of Biology Emeritus at Harvard University. His 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
Professor Golovchenko is Rumsford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University. His broad research career has encompassed 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.

Professor Amit Meller
Professor Amit Meller is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Physics, Boston University. Dr. Meller completed his BSc at Tel Aviv University, and his MSc and Ph.D. in Physics at the Weizmann Institute for Science. He then moved to Harvard University where he spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow and five years as a Senior Rowland Fellow leading the Single Molecule Biophysics Group at the Rowland Institute at Harvard. Now at Boston University, Dr. Meller's research group (www.bu.edu/meller) is focused on the development and manipulations of novel materials at the nano-scale. These materials are engineered to enable the study of biomolecular structure and dynamics at the single molecule or single complex level.