Roche Purchases AbVitro's DNA Enrichment Technology for Clinical Samples

By Bio-IT World Staff

October 10, 2014 | Roche, which has been retooling its next generation sequencing strategy since beginning the closure of 454 Life Sciences last October, has acquired a new sample preparation technology for an NGS pipeline. The technology, known as primer extension-based target enrichment (PETE), was created at AbVitro, a company founded by NGS pioneer George Church and current President and CSO Francois Vigneault to discover new drug targets in immune disease.

PETE will be used to amplify gene specific targets for sequencing, and claims advantages over traditional PCR amplification for use in a clinical setting. PETE uses barcoded primer extension to selectively label gene regions, before beginning amplification of the desired DNA or RNA sequences. "This strategy allows for elimination of amplification bias and sequencing errors, which is critical for accuracy in potential clinical applications," wrote Vigneault in an email to Bio-IT World.

"The assay is already applied to both DNA and RNA target panels from purified samples," he added, "but more importantly also from whole blood and other crude biological samples." Sample preparation directly from blood draws has been an obstacle to the use of NGS assays in medical practice.

Roche now has exclusive rights to PETE and the relevant intellectual property, and both Roche and AbVitro will work to further develop the technology. While Roche's plans to revamp its sequencing unit following the gradual decline of 454 are still unclear, the company has announced that PETE will support "a full next-generation sequencing workflow solution for clinical sequencing," suggesting again that Roche has not scaled back its ambitions to be a major player in the sequencing landscape. In moving toward the clinical setting, Roche joins Illumina, whose MiSeqDx instrument is already cleared for clinical use, and Thermo Fisher and QIAGEN, both currently working with the FDA toward clearance of their own NGS platforms.

While Roche has shut down both its semiconductor-based sequencing project, ISFET, and a synthetic nanopore sequencing project over the past eighteen months, the purchase of Genia Technologies this June has given the company a promising basis for a new NGS pipeline. (See "Roche Back in Sequencing Game with $350M Genia Acquisition.")

PETE is a platform-neutral technology, and could be released independently as an amplification method for any clinical sequencing workflow.

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