Life Technologies' SMS Technology Uses Nanocrystals as Main Engine

Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ:LIFE) today announced early stage results from its single molecule sequencing (SMS) technology.

The technology promises to combine virtually unlimited continuous long read lengths with unmatched accuracy to deliver targeted genomic sequence data in a matter of hours, paving the way for sequencing to become a commonplace tool in research laboratories and clinical settings worldwide.

Dr. Joseph Beechem, Chief Technology Officer and head of single molecule sequencing research for Life Technologies, presented results related to the system on Saturday at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology (AGBT) meeting in Marco Island, Florida.

Single molecule sequencing will enable analysis of genomic information without the need for cloning or amplification, allowing for data generation in only a few hours versus days or weeks with current systems, a critical trait for eventual use in a clinical setting. While next-generation sequencing technologies, such as the Applied Biosystems SOLiD™ System, will continue to be the technology of choice for whole genome sequencing and expression profiling, the attributes of Life Technologies’ single molecule sequencing technology promises to render it particularly useful for analyses of clinically relevant genes in cancer and immunology, and for deciphering RNA structure, viruses, and patterns of methylation.

The new technology uses Qdot® nanocrystals as its core sequencing engine. Qdots are nanometer-sized semiconductor crystals that have made them ideal for groundbreaking cellular imaging research and for the detection of individual protein molecules. Compared to conventional fluorescence detection with organic dye molecules, the Qdot approach generates signals more than 100 times greater, enabling simple single molecule detection. The SMS system uses specially designed sequencing versions of these nanocrystals, attached to proprietary DNA polymerase molecules.

The system monitors the real time incorporation of nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA) into individual growing DNA strands. As nucleotides are incorporated, they are energized by photons transferred from the Qdot nanocrystal, generating a characteristic colored flash of fluorescence light. The prototype SMS system records the time and color series of these light flashes to determine the DNA sequence of each individual DNA strand. Uniquely, this approach looks for correlated fluorescence flashes with Qdot signal decreases – a key feature that is anticipated to improve the error profile of inherently noisy single molecule data.

Another unique aspect of the system is reagent exchange, where individual Qdot polymerases and synthesized templates can be removed and replaced with new ones. This enables immobilized individual DNA templates to be sequenced several times in a recursive fashion, allowing for highly accurate reads with minimal sample preparation. In addition, reagent exchange enables linking together of multiple long reads to enable virtually unlimited read lengths.

“The promising combination of long reads and inherent accuracy enabled by recursive sequencing have the potential to make Life Technologies’ single molecule sequencing platform an integral part of our diverse sequencing projects,” said Dr. Craig Venter, Founder and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute. “At JCVI, we are eager to apply the technology in a number of projects, including haplotype phasing of the human genome, environmental sequencing and rapid sequence identification in our infectious disease work.”

Life Technologies plans to work with a select number of collaborators beginning in the fourth quarter of 2010. Commercialization plans for the new SMS system will be announced later this year.

“We see our single molecule technology as the perfect complement to our SOLiD and capillary electrophoresis platforms. As these systems have been and continue to be instrumental in genomic discovery, this new technology will be ideal for settings in which rapid, highly accurate sequencing results are necessary,” said Kip Miller, President of the Genetic Systems Division for Life Technologies. “Our investment in the development of this SMS system demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the entire DNA sequencing technology continuum.”


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