Roswell Biotechnologies, a life-science upstart in San Diego, has secured $32 million from investors to develop an unusual new way to sequence DNA for cheap — a feat they hope will dramatically bring down the costs of medical research.
The company is applying cutting edge ideas in nanotechnology to the world of gene sequencing, hoping to build a platform that can read DNA with unprecedented speed, accuracy and simplicity. Roswell is building a semiconductor chip that uses molecular building blocks to make electronic components. Since single molecules are the smallest stable structures possible, pulling this off shrinks electrical circuits and can pack more power into smaller spaces.
Roswell's technology — called the Electronic Nano Detection Sequencing, or ENDSeq — uses an enzyme that assembles DNA, called DNA polymerase, and inserts it into the electronics. As the enzyme assembles the DNA chain, a variable current is measured, indicating which of the four genetic letters (A, C, G or T) is attached. This approach has the promise of reducing the cost of sequencing by miniaturizing the electronics.
Roswell is working toward a $100 whole human genome test, an ambitious goal shared by San Diego’s gene sequencing giant Illumina. When Illumina introduced its latest system, the Novaseq, in January 2017, the company predicted its new architecture could enable a $100 genome.
Roswell’s latest round of financing, which came from undisclosed private investors, will fund the company’s research and development in sensor technology, chips, instruments and applications, said the company’s president and CEO Paul Mola.
“We are on an aggressive path to realizing the $100, 1-hour, clinical grade genome, to unlock the promise of precision medicine and usher in the DNA economy,” Mola said in a statement.
Among the startup’s advisory board is one of the most famous pioneers in the field: George Church, a professer at MIT and Harvard. One of the originators of the Human Genome Project, Church is a leading expert in DNA sequencing technologies and has cofounded many companies in genomics and genetics, including blockchain newcomer Nebula Genomics.