One molecule at a time

Team-up of Agilent and BioNanomatrix focuses on nanoscale whole-genome imaging and analysis

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PHILADELPHIA-Nanoscale whole-genome imaging and analytic platform developer BioNanomatrix is collaborating with Silicon Valley-based Agilent Technologies to develop a new genetic analysis system merging the two companies' technologies. BioNanomatrix will apply its nanoscale single-molecule imaging technology to develop consumable chips and reagents, while Agilent will develop the measurement instrumentation platform for the system. No financial details have been disclosed.
 "One of the first advantages of a combined platform like this is that previously on the genetics side of discovery and development, people had to look at mixtures of molecules or averages of components within a sample," notes Dr. Michael Boyce-Jacino, CEO of BioNanomatrix. "Number two is the ability to image single molecules of DNA so that you don't have to just indirectly analyze markers but can also now look at assemblages or patterns of markers within DNA as a set-like a bar code indicator of whatever you want to track at the genomic level."
 He points out that while people do a lot of work on DNA, they haven't been able to really see the DNA they work on, and this technology brings them closer to that goal. His analogy is that of the Global Positioning System vs. Google Maps. GPS coordinates are useful if you know what you are doing, but it still often doesn't beat being able to pull up a map that gives you instant contextual information about the location you're interested in. According to Boyce-Jacino, looking at single molecules in a linear fashion should give researchers much more context for their genomics data.
 Eran Raber, director of new business creation and venture investments for Agilent, notes that in addition to drug discovery and development applications, the technology has high potential for diagnostics, particularly in the area of cytogenetics. While he and Boyce-Jacino both see many potential commercial directions, particularly genotoxicity testing, Raber is quick to point out that this collaboration is strictly R&D right now to see if the combined technology works as expected, and to identify the best areas to focus on first for commercialization if and when the platform comes together.

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