Oxford Nanopore raises $126M to expand DNA sequencing reach

Oxford Nanopore, which markets the world’s only portable DNA sequencer, has reeled in £100 million ($126 million) through a private placement. This new funding brings the total raised by the British upstart to £351 million ($445 million).

The funds will boost sales and marketing for Oxford Nanopore’s devices, including the MinION portable DNA sequencer, its PromethION high-throughput, on-demand sequencer and the VolTRAX automated sample/library preparation device, according to a statement. They will also go toward developing the company’s pipeline, which includes a mobile phone-compatible sequencer, as well as toward improving its existing products.

“We will be using these funds to expand our commercial operations across a range of territories, including in Asia,” said CEO Gordon Sanghera in the statement. “The active community of scientists using the MinION has shown that there are myriad possibilities for real time, scalable DNA sequencing with nanopore devices. We are looking forward to accelerating the development and adoption of those applications, towards our goal of enabling the analysis of any living thing, by anyone, anywhere.”

Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing devices are based on measuring changes in electrical current as a strand of DNA passes through a nanopore, or a nanoscale hole. It has expanded beyond its initial offering, the portable MinION sequencer, and is working on scaling up its tech, which has perturbed diagnostics giant Illumina.

In February, Illumina filed a patent suit against Oxford Nanopore, claiming ownership of intellectual property used in the latter’s technology. But whereas Illumina’s patents cover the use of MspA, a porin created by Mycobacteria used in nanopore DNA sequencing, it’s unclear whether Oxford Nanopore’s tech uses the same pore. Oxford Nanopore seemed unruffled by the suit, claiming that it was “without merit” and brushed off concerns that it would affect its growth.

GT Healthcare led the financing, with participation from existing backer Woodford Investment Management. Oxford Nanopore’s last financing pulled in $109 million.