Distribution of the Genome Sequencer 20 System will provide entry for Roche into the lucrative and high-growth sequencing research market.
Estimates put the current cost of sequencing a human genome between $10 million (€8.3 million) and $25 million. Alternative sequencing methods have been described, however, no technology has yet displaced the use of bacterial vectors and Sanger sequencing as the main generators of sequence information.
"The Genome Sequencer 20 System provides a high-throughput, cost-effective solution for DNA sequencing, enabling researchers to finish experiments in a very short time, thus opening the door to completely new application fields for sequencing," said Heino von Prondzynski, CEO Division Roche Diagnostics.
The proliferation of large-scale DNA-sequencing projects in recent years has driven a search for such advanced alternative sequencing methods.
Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, welcomed the new technology as "exciting" in the July 31, 2005, online issue of Nature.
"Sequencing technology needs to continue to become smaller, faster and less expensive in order to fulfill the promise of personalised medicine," he said.
Other applications of such innovative technology include oncology research, understanding third world diseases, and providing fast responses to bioterrorism threats and diagnostics.
The successful submission of a complete adenovirus sequence to GenBank in 2003 by the developers of this novel nanotechnology-based method, 454 Life Sciences,, marked the first time a new technology was used to sequence a whole genome since Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger won the Nobel Prize in 1980 for their invention of DNA sequencing in 1977.
This product launch has seen a $7.5 m payment to 454 Life Sciences from Roche. Under the terms of the 5-year, exclusive world-wide distribution agreement, 454 Life Sciences will receive a margin on products manufactured for Roche and royalties on net sales of licensed products.
In addition, 454 Life Sciences will receive up to $62 m in license fees, milestones related to instrument releases, minimum royalties, and research funding.
Following a single step to prepare an entire genome, the compact Genome Sequencer 20 System can sequence at least 20 million bases, at close to 99 per cent accuracy, in one 5-hour run, thus eliminating the need for the large-scale robotics currently required for colony picking and sample handling.
An individual can now prepare, sequence, and generate results in days, not months. The technology performs massively parallel sequencing on a PicoTiterPlate, employs state-of-the art image processing, and utilises unique data analysis to achieve high-quality results.
Roche employs roughly 65,000 people in 150 countries and has research and development agreements and strategic alliances with numerous partners. In 2004 the sales by the pharmaceutical division totaled 21.7 bn SF, while the diagnostic division posted sales of 7.8 bn SF.
The US-based 454 Life Sciences is a majority-owned subsidiary of CuraGen Corporation.