Thousand Oaks biotech giant Amgen broadened its reach into genetics research Oct. 18 with a $66 million investment in handheld DNA sequencing company Oxford Nanopore Technologies.
Genetics has been a research focus for Amgen since its 2012 acquisition of deCODE, particularly in the area of Alzheimer’s therapies.
The news follows closely the release by Oxford Nanopore of a new, “pocket-sized,” battery-powered product called the MinIT on Oct. 10, which augments its flagship MinION device to provide high-volume, real-time genetic sequencing. The technology was used by NASA in 2016 to analyze samples of mouse, virus and bacteria DNA on the International Space Station, which NASA scientists labeled a “game-changer,” opening up avenues to diagnose illness on a long voyage to Mars or and analyze microbes found on the station.
Each single-use cell for the MinION can generate as much as 30 gigabits of data, or the equivalent of 10 times the human genome, Oxford Nanopore said. The devices have already been in use by deCODE in its genome research, Amgen said in a news release, including identifying and validating target genes for new therapies.
“The study of human genetics continues to uncover insights into the diseases we face as a society,” said Kári Stefánsson, founder of deCODE Genetics. “Oxford Nanopore’s long-read sequencing capability creates a window into parts of the genome that have been out of reach, as well as giving us a much better handle on structural variants that confer risk of a wide variety of diseases.”
Amgen purchased $66 million in Oxford Nanopore shares at the same price per share as global investors who committed $140 million to the company in a funding round in March. Amgen shares had dipped 1 percent as of 11 a.m. Oct. 16 to $200.73.
“As a biotechnology pioneer, Amgen has demonstrated what can be achieved for society through innovation and a deep understanding of genetics,” said Oxford Nanopore CEO Gordon Sanghera. “We are delighted to welcome them as a shareholder.”
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