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produce more accurate information because electronic detection is inherently more sensitive than optical detection, Bready says. Another potential advantage of the NABsys technology, he notes, is that it does not require polymerase enzymes and other materials that can drive up the cost and impact the accuracy of sequencing. The solid-state element of the technology involves the use of materials and fabrication methods already developed for the semiconductor industry, according to the company.
Still, NABsys is currently working on its first prototype, and Bready says that the system is two years away from commercial research use. In a clinical setting, potential uses of the technology could include informing doctors which treatments are likely to be effective in certain patients, given what is known about a patient’s genetics.
“Solid-state, nanopore technology theoretically sounds to be a wonderful solution in many regards, [but] the question is can they get it working fully,” says Marc Hodosh, president of the TEDMED healthcare conference (and an Xconomist), who previously ran the $10 million Archon X-Prize for Genomics. Nevertheless, he says, “I think these guys [at NABsys] are still very much in the race for the ultimate price point and speed at which we would like to be able to conduct genomic research and the ability to have individuals have their [DNA] sequenced as well.”
NABsys, founded in 2004 by Brown physics professor Xinsheng Sean Ling, has had a relatively long journey to its first-round financing. Bready explains that the development of the sequencing technology was accelerated after the firm acquired sequencing startup GeneSpectrum in 2007. In the deal, NABsys gained access GeneSpectrum’s hybridization technology (which involves attaching probes to the DNA molecules) and its algorithms used to reconstruct the DNA sequence, he says. Also, GeneSpectrum co-founder John Oliver joined NABsys as vice president of research and development, and has helped advance the technology to a stage at which venture investors are willing to support the company.
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