NEWCASTLE, U.K.—Under an agreement signed near the end ofMarch, QuantuMDx Group (QMDx), a biotech company developing a range of portabletechnologies for diagnostics, DNA sequencing and proteomics, will engage in aresearch collaboration with the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) of theSingapore-based Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
Under this collaboration, IME will further advance QMDx'sDNA sequencing nanowire biosensor to the point of commercialization. QMDx aimsto be a pioneer in developing a "handheld, all-in-one DNA sequencer."
The device was invented by QMDx's chief scientific officer,Jonathan O'Halloran, and is currently in prototype form. The A*STARcollaboration is intended to leverage IME's silicon-based nanowire technologyto develop biosensing technology that can simultaneously and rapidly detectlarge numbers of different cells and biomaterials.
According to the two companies, "The synergy of QMDx'sproprietary molecular capture and IME's technology will soon deliveraffordable, rapid and accurate clinical targeted DNA sequencing at the point ofneed."
According to Prof. Dim-Lee Kwong, the executive director ofIME, "The collaboration with QMDx to deliver a technology breakthrough clearlydemonstrates the potential of IME's cross-disciplinary expertise andcapabilities in the bioelectronics industry."
IME was established to provide a research-and-developmentbridge between academia and industry and to add value to Singapore'ssemiconductor industry by developing strategic competencies, innovativetechnologies and intellectual property; enabling enterprises to betechnologically competitive; and cultivating a technology talent pool to injectnew knowledge to the industry. IME focuses on such areas as bioelectronics,medical devices, nanoelectronics, photonics, integrated circuit design andadvanced packaging.
"Our collaboration with IME is of immense importance toQMDx. Not only will our partnership enable both parties to utilize ourrespective expertise to further develop and commercialize on-chip DNAsequencing, but it also represents a major milestone for QMDx as we embark onsetting up operations in Singapore to benefit from the country's wealth ofbiotech expertise and state-of-the-art manufacturing and fabricationfacilities," notes Elaine Warburton, CEO of QMDx.
QMDx's first commercial product, Q-POC, is scheduled to hitthe market in 2013. As described by QMDx, the device will deliver affordable,rapid and accurate medical diagnosis in less than 20 minutes, reportedly withthe same accuracy—both sensitivity and specificity—as any state-of-the-art fulllaboratory, but at the patient's side and at a fraction of the cost. Thecompany is working with various partner companies to create disposablediagnostic cartridges for companion diagnostics, tuberculosis (TB), sexuallytransmitted infections (STIs), genetic testing and cardiovascular disease. Thefirst commercial assays expected to be available for the device are incompanion diagnostics and multidrug resistant infectious disease testing,including TB, HIV and STIs.
Still in development, with no planned release dates as yet,are the Q-SEQ portable genomic sequencer, which is what IME and QMDx areworking to complete, and InVenio, a whole-proteome array.
The Q-SEQ will use QMDx's nanowire biosensors arrayed invarious different formations and structures to provide both short reads and longreads. The company says that Q-SEQ "is being developed to undertake 'genomicsequencing while you wait, because 'shotgun sequencing,'" as QMDx describescurrent next-generation sequencing methods, "cannot provide the full story ofvariation, as it is unable to resolve, copy number variations large repeats andrearrangements"—specifically, the structural variation that makes up asignificant proportion of human genetic variation. According to QMDx, acombination of shotgun and targeted long read-length sequencing will facilitatethe "definitive de-novo sequencingplatform and deliver true whole-genome sequencing, not the approximately70-percent genome sequencing that shotgun platforms presently offer."