Amgen invests £50m in UK genetics firm Oxford Nanopore

Biotech giant Amgen has ploughed £50 million into a genetic sequencing company to support the development of its cutting-edge technology.

US firm Amgen has invested in Oxford Nanopore, which has developed handheld gene sequencing technology that uses nanopores in combination with electronics to perform direct, real-time sequencing of DNA and RNA.

Amgen’s subsidiary, Iceland-based deCODE Genetics, used Oxford Nanopore’s gene sequencing device as part of its research, prompting the biotech’s interest and investment, as genetic sequencing can lead to breakthroughs in medicine and healthcare.

Nanopores are nano-scale holes made by proteins contained within a synthetic membrane. DNA is pulled through nanopores and the electrical signals produced can be measured. This can decode a genome.

It is hoped that the handheld device, called MinION, will help to diagnose cancer swiftly and help doctors to provide the most appropriate treatment.

There is also potential for pharma companies to use the technology to help to develop drugs, for instance, by identifying mutations.

As well as the handheld version, Oxford Nanopore has developed larger models that can process very long sequences of genes.

Gordon Sanghera, chief executive officer of Oxford Nanopore, said: “As a biotechnology pioneer, Amgen has demonstrated what can be achieved for society through innovation and a deep understanding of genetics. We are delighted to welcome them as a shareholder.”

deCODE has discovered genetic risk factors for many common diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer.

Kári Stefánsson, founder of deCODE Genetics, said: “The study of human genetics continues to uncover insights into the diseases we face as a society.

“Oxford Nanopore’s long-read sequencing capability creates a window into parts of the genome that have been out of reach, as well as giving us a much better handle on structural variants that confer risk of a wide variety of diseases.

“We have used Oxford Nanopore technology to sequence several hundred human genomes and continue to see the promise of this emerging technology.”





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