Roopom Banerjee, the chief executive of genomic research tool maker RainDance Technologies, is aware of the criticisms facing genomics. “There’s been a lot of talk recently about how productive has the Human Genome Project really been in terms of delivering on the promise of personalized medicine,” he says.
RainDance is helping scientists conquer part of this major challenge and question in disease research: Now that we’re able to map our DNA quickly and cheaply, how do we use these vast stockpiles of genomic data to actually improve our health? The company bridges part of this gap by giving researchers the tools to rapidly perform experiments of specific genes, helping them figure out how those genes affect a variety of diseases. This could expedite the development of treatments and diagnostics personalized to individuals’ specific genetic makeup.
The Lexington, MA-based company launched its first commercial product—a system that can conduct thousands of DNA experiments every second, contained in ultra-tiny fluid droplets—in April 2009. And it’s already found an audience for the system, called the “RDT 1000,” at major research hubs such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and The Rockefeller University as well as at big drug companies like Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis.
RainDance’s micro-droplet technology is helping researchers at these institutions do what is known as targeted genetic sequencing, which involves studying specific genes within the vast genome to better understand specific illnesses such as cancer, rare diseases, autoimmune disorders, and other ailments. It’s also making these studies—which amplify specified genes using a tried and true technology known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR—faster and cheaper than previous processes by orders of magnitude.
“In the space that a customer would traditionally do one or 96 samples of PCR, we do … Next Page »