Genentech joins WaferGen's single cell analysis early-access program

Genentech has joined an early-access program for WaferGen Bio-systems' ($WGBS) single cell sequencing technology. The alliance builds on proof-of-concept studies with the Broad Institute and BGI with a view to validating the use of the technology in industrial drug discovery.

WaferGen wrapped up the proof-of-concept studies assessing the ability of its SmartChip to isolate single cells earlier this year, at which time it advanced the technology into an early-access program. Genentech is the first company to sign up for the program and will work with WaferGen to evaluate the role of SmartChip in its single cell sequencing and analysis operation. With the hype around single cell analysis on the rise, WaferGen has high hopes for the program.

"A substantial unmet need remains for analyzing thousands of cells per sample and studying individual cells' responses to various chemical stimuli," WaferGen CEO Ivan Trifunovich said in a statement. In the proof-of-concept studies, SmartChip facilitated the analysis of cell genetics at a throughput level that could be scaled to thousands of cells per sample. WaferGen thinks a 50-fold increase in single cells per chip over current technologies is achievable.

The company expects the yield increase to slash the cost per cell, a prediction it will now start to test with Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech. The early-access program is a precursor to WaferGen's move into commercial sales of single cell analysis products, which it expects to start later this year. Researchers are looking to single cell analysis to establish a more nuanced picture of the cellular makeup of tumors and tissues, knowledge that could lead to more effective therapeutics.

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