Roche announced that it is acquiring Genia, a California based sequencing technology startup company. Genia is founded by Roger Chen, Stefan Roever, Pratima Rao and Randy Davis in 2009 with the goal to move beyond $1000 genome to $100 genome using semiconductor based biological nanopore sequencing. A 2011 BioIT article on Genia by Kevin Davies describes how a chance meeting at Starbucks led to Genia. It says
Roger Chen was reading a book on the origins of life. Stefan Roever was buying a cappuccino. The two men struck up a conversation.
The serendipitous meeting led to founding the company with the other co-founders.
Genia is developing the nanopore based sequencing system in collaboration with researchers Prof. Jingyue Ju, Columbia University and Prof. George Church, Harvard University. The collaboration aims to combine Genia’s standard complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit, Professor Church’s novel protein constructs with Columbia’s unique Tag-based sequencing chemistry approach. In late 2013, the Genia, Columbia, and Harvard team got NIH grant worth $5.25 million to develop the Single Molecule, Semiconductor sequencing technology.
Here is how Genia’s website describe its sequencing technology can be the “last-gen sequencing” technology and why is different from other technologies.
Genia’s technology reduces the price of sequencing and increases speed, accuracy, and sensitivity by moving away from complex sample preparation and optical detection. The heart of Genia’s technology is the biological nanopore, a protein pore embedded in a lipid bilayer membrane. Our planar electronic sensor technology enables highly efficient nanopore-membrane assembly and accuracy of current readings, overcoming many of the limitations faced by earlier nanopore sequencing efforts.
The brains of Genia’s technology lies in our electronics. Unlike the majority of today’s sequencing platforms, which rely on specialized, expensive optical sensors, Genia’s technology measures changes in electrical currents. These changes are readily detected by the same inexpensive semiconductors that are present in consumer electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, and handheld devices. Because of the well-developed fabrication processes and abundance of manufacturers, bringing semiconductor technology to DNA sequencing will greatly reduce the cost of Genia’s sequencer, making the $100 genome a reality.
Revealing the terms of acquisition, Roche said in the press release that it will pay Genia’s $125 million in cash and depending on the achievement it will pay up to $225 million.
In the press release announcing the acquisition, Roland Diggelmann, COO of Roche Diagnostics, said
The acquisition of Genia is a further step for Roche to introduce a potentially disruptive technology to the market. The addition of Genia’s single molecule semiconductor DNA sequencing platform using nanopore technology strengthens our next generation sequencing pipeline.
Stefan Roever, CEO of Genia and one of the founders said
We are very excited about continuing our successful development as part of the Roche Group and bringing our technology to researchers on a global scale.
Roche and Next-Gen Sequencing
This is not the first time Roche has shown interest in next-gen sequencing technology company. In 2007, Roche acquired 454 Life Sciences for $155 Million and later in 2013 Roche announced that it will shutdown 454 business in mid-2016.
Earlier in 2012, Roche came up with a hostile bid to acquire Illumina for $5.7 billions (and later it went up to $6.5 billions). The long-winding hostile effort ended after Illumina kept rejecting Roche’s acquisition bids.
In a different domain, Roche went after Genentech with hostile bids and successfully acquired it later.
So what awaits for Genia at Roche? 454 route or Genetech way?
Learn more about Genia Technologies.