Nanopores, microfluidics get $14.5M from NIH for new DNA sequencing tech

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $14.5 million in eight grants to researchers working to develop high quality and low cost DNA sequencing. The grants are each for two to four years and are awarded through the Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), a part of NIH.

Half of the projects receiving funding involve nanopores. These include $2.29 million for Mark Akeson of University of California at Santa Cruz to study improving the accuracy of a nanopore device to identify each nucleotide; $592,000 to Boyan Boyanov at Illumina ($ILMN) to improve the robustness of biological nanopores by combining them with computer chips to create a hybrid protein solid-state nanopore array system to sequence DNA on a large scale; $880,000 to Marija Drndic at the University of Pennsylvania to create a synthetic nanopore from graphene to allow faster DNA detection; and $4.4 million for M. Reza Ghadiri at The Scripps Research Institute to try three approaches to using protein nanopore arrays to sequence a human genome in as little as 10 minutes.

"While we continue to support many research projects centered on the development of nanopore technology, some of the new grants focus on additional unique approaches to sequencing DNA," NHGRI Genome Technology Program Director Jeffery Schloss said in a statement. He is also director of the Division of Genome Sciences.

He continued, "Despite discussion about approaching the goal of sequencing a genome for only $1,000, many challenges remain in terms of containing costs and achieving a high quality of DNA sequencing data." These are the last awards under the Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program, which began in 2004.

The remaining winners are Caerus Molecular Diagnostics, whose Javier Farinas got $701,000 to use an engineered enzyme switch to copy DNA for easier and more accurate detection; Eve Biomedical, whose Theofilos Kotseroglou received $500,000 to study DNA sequencing using a polymerase on a carbon nanotube; and the University of Washington at Seattle, whose Jay Shendure got $1.7 million to work on molecular biology techniques to better stitch together genomes across long distances.

- here is the release