Oligo-ing above and beyond

Agilent and Broad team up on genome-partitioning kits

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Mid-May saw Agilent Technologies Inc. acquire a license to commercialize a method developed at the Broad Institute—a research collaboration of MIT and Harvard University—for genome partitioning using Agilent's Oligo Library Synthesis technology. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal arose from an effort by Agilent under an early access program in which the company made its oligo library synthesis capability available to researchers at a variety of institutions. Having developed the capability of manufacturing oligos on a chip that are far longer than what can be purchased from oligo houses—and doing so in "a massively parallel way"—the company saw the potential for enabling various kinds of studies that would not otherwise be possible, says Dr. Fred Ernani, Agilent's marketing manager for emerging genomic applications.

"So we put our oligos in the hands of some very intelligent people at several organizations and Dr. Nusbaum [Chad Nusbaum, co-director of the Genome Sequencing and Analysis Program at the Broad Institute] did find a way to apply them to do what we're calling genome partitioning or targeted resequencing. We've been in collaboration with Dr. Nusbaum before and when we saw the results he was getting at the Broad using our oligos, we saw that it was a highly enabling technology for the next-gen sequencing workflow."

Recent advances in DNA-sequencing technology have increased the speed of data acquisition; however, without accompanying improvements in the ability to select relevant portions of the genome, the technology cannot achieve its full potential in studying the relationships between genes and diseases. The Agilent genome-partitioning portfolio, which is currently in development, is said to hold great potential for eliminating this bottleneck.

"We're working on a simple, highly multiplexed, cost-effective way to enable investigators to remove the sample-preparation bottleneck in sequencing targeted regions of mammalian genomes, using relatively small amounts of input DNA," says Nusbaum.

"Agilent's expertise in custom oligo synthesis and our expertise in production-scale sequencing are a natural match-up to overcome these challenges."

The Broad isn't the only organization working with Agilent's oligo library synthesis capability nor the only one with some promising ideas, Ernani notes, but at this time, no other technologies or applications are far enough along to be ready for a public announcement, much less specific commercialization plans, he says. DDN

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