IBM and Roche are working together to decode DNA more quickly and cheaply, potentially allowing patients to receive customized prescription drugs. In the future, this kind of health care IT could also allow patients to purchase their own DNA code information for as little as $100.
IBM and Roche, a pharmaceutical and
diagnostics company based in Basel, Switzerland,
are working together to fine-tune a DNA
decoding process that could lead to faster and more affordable sequencing and
As part of the July 1 agreement, Roche's subsidiary, 454 Life Sciences,
will market and distribute
future products based on IBM's DNA Transistor
In addition, IBM will license the technology
and continue to provide expertise and resources.
Roche, which describes itself as the largest biotech company in the world,
holds "expertise in medical diagnostics and genome sequencing," IBM
"Sequencing is an increasingly critical tool for personalized health
care," Manfred Baier, head of applied science at Roche, said in a
statement. "It can provide the individual genetic information necessary
for the effective diagnosis and targeted treatment of diseases. We are
confident that this powerful technology, plus the combined strengths of IBM
and Roche, will make low-cost whole genome sequencing and its benefits
available to the marketplace faster than previously thought possible."
senior manager of the IBM
explained that DNA
sequencing has come a long way in 10 years, as originally genome sequencing was
not yet possible. Now the technology is available but costly, he said.
"The next step we need to take is to make it faster and better in
quality of readout and scale of operation. Once we reach that point, which
could be [in] the next five years or 10 years, then I think we have the
potential of being able to apply that routinely to the practice of
medicine," Royyuru said in an interview with eWEEK.
The goal of the project is to read DNA
quickly and efficiently at a low cost. If successful, this process would allow
doctors to more effectively match medication to patients.
Transistor technology, comprising a combination of metal and silicon
insulation, uses electrodes to thread DNA
molecules through a nanopore, a hole the size of a nanometer, or one-billionth
of a meter.
Royyuru compared the creation of the nanopore to punching a small hole
through a piece of paper with a pencil.
"We're able to drill a hole small enough and operate it electrically to
put the DNA through the pore. All of that we
have shown is workable," he said.
In the next phase of development, IBM and
Roche will work on moving the DNA through
"Then we will have shown at that point that we can control the passage
of DNA," Royyuru said.
Slowing down the DNA as it travels
through the nanopore makes genetic data readable, he said.
Personalized medication can eliminate some adverse side effects of current
drugs. Some preliminary cancer drugs based on the DNA
Transistor technology have already reached the market, Royyuru noted.
"Today what everybody does with medicine is trial and error," Royyuru
said. "They give a certain treatment because it worked on most people
before. But they have no way of knowing if it will work on you or not. They
have side effects that are worse than what you're trying to treat."
Ultimately, the technology has the potential to improve throughput and
reduce costs, so human genome sequencing could be purchased for $100 to $1,000.
In addition to the announcement, IBM has
posted a video of how the DNA