‘Zoom lens’ for sequencing

TGen and febit collaborate to refine new DNA capture method

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HEIDELBERG, Germany—Its new HybSelect technology won't be officially introduced to the market until early 2009, but German company febit—which has a second headquarters in the Boston area—is putting the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to work in making sure the technology is ready to hit the ground running.

More specifically, Phoenix, Ariz.-based TGen will be first U.S. pilot user of HybSelect, which is based on febit's Geniom microarray technology and uses arrays within microfluidic biochips for the selection process of targeted DNA. HybSelect will be used on the latest instrumentation platforms to assess its ability to enable targeting and increase speed for next-generation sequencing. The HybSelect technology is designed to enable selective DNA capture and elution, which febit calls "an extremely efficient method to preselect sequences for next-generation sequencers."

Data obtained from TGen will be used to refine HybSelect before it hits the market next year.

"The benefit for us will be real applications and real problems with real results and real samples," says Peer Staehler, vice president of business development for febit. "We'll be working with a partner who has a lot of expertise in the genomics space and we will have output that we can publish."

 "There's been a great deal of conversation on the future direction of genomic research centers on next-generation sequencing," says Dr. Matthew Huentelman, an associate investigator in TGen's Neurobehavioral Research unit and lead collaborator on the project. "It's really important to have the technology work for those investigators out there who want to look at a couple candidate gene regions across hundreds or maybe thousands of people and who don't want to have to sequence the entire genomes of all those people. That's why I'm excited to work with febit on this technology and refine it."

In addition to helping febit, the collaboration provides TGen scientists with pre-market access to a highly developed DNA capturing method, both parties note.

TGen and febit already have a history, as TGen has been a user of the Geniom One device for the production and microarray analysis of the programmable Geniom Biochips since 2006.

"What is very nice about febit's technology is that it makes things very user-friendly," Huentelman says. "The arrays are highly customizable and can be made in one day to put the technology directly into researchers' hands. You can literally dream it up on day and go after it the next day."

Typically, researchers are faced with getting three or four different instruments, often from different vendors, then have to figure out how to get them to work together, and febit's technology is meant to make the use of these microarrays easier and not simply the purview of bioinformatics experts.

"There is a need for bioinformatics specialists and good uses for complex sequencing tools, but then you have the biologists in the labs who just want to pose simple genomics questions, and that is one of the needs we're trying to meet," says Staehler.

"We want researchers to have a more cost-effective way to approach sequencing," he adds, "so we take a huge genome, put it on a microarray, discard the stuff the researcher isn't interested in, and leave the juicy pieces so that researchers can elucidate those and put them on an instrument. It's like putting a zoom lens on a camera that didn't have one before." DDN

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