By Will Soutter
The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced grants of nearly $19 million for developing technologies that could drastically bring down DNA sequencing costs. Many of the projects are utilizing nanotechnology to achieve this motive.
The costs involved in DNA sequencing have reduced considerably due to improvements in technologies, processes and tools. The Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology Program was launched by the NHGRI in 2004. It aimed to produce high-quality genome sequences of approximately 6 billion base pairs for $100,000 each. It surpassed this goal in 2009. Presently, the cost of human genome sequencing is less than $8,000.
The program director for NHGRI's Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology Program, Jeffery A. Schloss stated that many research teams who have received grants will be utilizing nanotechnology. Many projects are using nanoscale devices for DNA sequencing.
The researchers will be using nanoscale structures for precisely manipulating DNA molecules. A single strand of DNA has a diameter of 2 nm, while human hair has a diameter of 100,000 nm. They will be studying nanoscale sensing modes.
Genapsys in Redwood City, CA, has been awarded $3.3 million for developing chip-based DNA sequencing in a gene electronic nano-integrated ultra-sensitive platform. Harvard University researchers have been awarded $3.6 million for developing a scalable graphene nanopore sequencing device.
NIH has granted $4.5 million to GnuBIO for increasing the speed of whole genome sequencing by improving single channel microfluidic instruments. Columbia University researchers have been awarded $1.5 million to develop faster electronics to enable nanopore array-based sequencing.
Intel, University of Twente, Columbia University, Pacific Biosciences, and Northeastern University are among the other winners of the NIH/ NHGRI grants.