DEMO: BDNA maps the IT genome

BDNA is one of 70 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Fall 2010 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After our selection, the companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Fast gene sequencing in two years? Investors bet $100M on Pacific BioSciences making it happen

Representing a potential medical quantum leap similar to, but even more important than the commercialization of X-ray imaging, Pacific BioSciences has taken a whopping $100 million to make it possible to affordably map out an individual’s entire genome in a matter of minutes, and for under $1,000 dollars. While several startups, including 23andMe and deCODEme, are already offering cheap genetic testing for individuals, the technology Pacific Bio is looking at is about as different from those as looking at a satellite image of a town is to walking through it. The company is working on a system to “read” each DNA letter in a person’s genetic makeup, providing an in-depth view of every factor affecting a given person’s health. The idea sounds fairly simple: Individial DNA molecules are captured in tiny holes on a chip, where they are pulled apart and rebuilt with enzymes identical to those present in the body, but with the addition of chemical markers. A type of digital camera takes a picture of the process, identifying the specific fragment being looked at. We covered the technology in more depth when it was first revealed, and have mentioned various competitors, most notably Complete Genomics and BioNanomatrix, who want to do sequencing for under $100. In practice, of course, operating at such tiny scales is difficult, and accurately sequencing thousands of genes at once seems nearly impossible. But the company says it will be ready to commercialize by 2010, a Herculean feat if it can pull it off. The new funding indicates that it is at least gaining the confidence of venture capitalists. If and when that happens, it will be time for early investors including Alloy Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Mohr Davidow Ventures — who collectively plowed more than $70 million into Pacific Bio over four previous rounds — to rake in the money. However, it will just be the beginning for a whole new field of medical technology centered around finding uses for all the new information in individuals that becomes available. Preventative medicine is the obvious use, but others, like data mining for new cures and information on diseases, are also possible. Laws regulating the use (and misuse) of such information by insurers, employers and others will also have to be formulated. A passel of new investors joined the funding, starting with co-leads Deerfield Management and Intel Capital. Also in were Morgan Stanley, Redmile Group, T. Rowe Price, and an unnamed “large financial institution.” Other previous investors Maverick Capital, AllianceBernstein, DAG Ventures and Teachers’ Private Capital also participated.

Pacific Bio lifts the veil on its high-speed genome-sequencing effort

Competition to analyze human genomes faster and cheaper — a subject I’ve discussed at length here and here — keeps heating up. The latest shot came yesterday, when Menlo Park, Calif.-based Pacific Biosciences granted the NYT an exclusive look at technology it says should eventually make it possible to sequence a genome in just a few minutes for under $1,000.

Intelligent Bio-Systems stakes out new ground in the gene race — a $5,000 genome by late next year

The cost of sequencing human genomes is dropping steadily, from several hundred million dollars a decade ago to $100,000 or so today, thanks to a bevy of entrepreneurial companies that have attacked the problem of making the process faster and cheaper with gusto. We’ve looked at several of the newer upstarts in the field, most recently Complete Genomics and Bionanomatrix, Genome Corp. (seventh item), and Genomic Diagnostics (fourth item).

Complete Genomics and BioNanomatrix rev up the fast, cheap and out-of-control genome race

Things are starting to get crowded in the race to sequence entire human genomes quickly and relatively cheaply — usually meaning somewhere in the territory of $1,000 per genome, compared to the $100,000+ it costs with current technology. At least four startups have taken on the $1,000 genome challenge, two of which have already been acquired by larger companies. (See details at the end of the first item here.)

Genetics roundup: The secrets of DNA, peering into Watson's genome — and yawning, and more

What secrets lurk in the heart of DNA? — Didn’t the Human Genome Project answer that question? Think again. Last week, scientists involved in a project called Encode reported on a detailed analysis of one percent of the genome, and the findings have undercut a host of conventional wisdom about how genes and DNA work. Most notably, the Encode study suggests that much of the genome — the long stretches of seemingly inactive genetic “letters” surrounding functional genes, sometimes unfairly called “junk DNA” — is actually a beehive of complex and little-understood activity.