Friday, March 11, 2005

Nanogenesequencing: An Old Half Baked Potato!

Where did they get the idea of Nanogenesequencing?: An old half baked potato!


In 1998 , Eugene Chan a 23 year old smart Harvard Medical school MD student thought of an idea of fast genome sequencing technique based on single molecule DNA detection.
See the Scientific American articlepublished in 2002
http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=0000EE4C-F666-1CD2-B4A8809EC588EEDF
From this report I quote the following lines:

1) "Chan reasoned that a single blood test could be fashioned to achieve the more tractable task of rapidly discerning the variations in a genome, whereas the long unchanging segments of DNA would go unread. "

2) "Borrowing from semiconductor manufacturing and the nascent field of nanotechnology, Chan conceived of placing miniaturized channels on a quartz chip. The DNA, propelled along by a fluid flow, would stream down the channel as if it were a film running through a movie projector. As the DNA moved along, a laser, positioned about halfway down the channel, would illuminate groups of base pairs tagged with a fluorescent dye. Like a bar-code reader, an optoelectronic device would determine which groups lit up and would thus mark genetic variations. To make the test widely available, Chan estimated that it should cost no more than a few hundred dollars."


Now you can see that Dr Duo simply lifted this idea in a different form!!!

Having convinced the scientific feasibility of his idea Chan dropped the medical school and approached famous Profs of MIT and Harvard with the plan to start a company. Importantly he could convince (more correctly they smelled money there) them about his plan. With their help of Chan and his brother (a management professional) could able to gather 7 million USD for their start up called USgenomics (http://www.usgenomics.com/). By 2001-2002 the company obtained two US patents. After that Chan became a hero (remeber Human Genome Project completed in 2002) and US media one after another ran stories on him.

See http://www.venturemag.org/vol1/issue1/features/eugenius.html

But no product came out from his campany!! Investors got restless and brought Craig Ventor ( High level Businessman (Scientist?) of Celera) and former chief of Pelkin-Ermer Inc in the scientific board. Because of the tremendous pressure from inside and out side Chan was forced to leave the company. However, ha had made enough fortune for few generations . He went back to Harvard to resume his studies. If you look at the site of US genomics now, you wont even see his name!!!
Read: http://www.boston.com/business/technology/biotechnology/articles/2004/08/30/growing_pains_at_us_genomics/

After Chans departure US genomics changed its track from sequencing (may be wise) to only single molecule detection for which recently they came up with the an insrtrument (list price: $150,000) . I am sure Arun and Ajith have read Eugene Chans big ambition somewhere sometime ago. So they are trying to sell and achieve what the smart Harvad student failed to do even though he had huge backing from top Scientists of the world!! Also rember it was completely a private venture.

Pradeep

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