A little surprise: University-founded Oxford Nanopore | DNA has advanced greatly. Manufacturing sector | So Good News


NA long way from Didcot, a stop halfway between London and Bristol on the Great Western Railway, a tribute to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s engineering, it returns with innovation. DNA and RNA sequencing machines are manufactured in a high-tech facility.

Oxford Nanopore is a human; Produces tools used to identify viruses and identify strains in the genetic makeup of animals and plants. Its sequencers are used globally to track Covid-19 strains, and are now used in the intensive care unit of respiratory infections at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals in London to fight 200 cases of drug-resistant TB. – Biggest killer worldwide after Covid in 2020.

“Our DNA isn’t static: it changes over time, due to lifestyle, environmental factors, throughout the life cycle of a plant or an animal or a person,” said Gordon Sanghera, co-founder and CEO of NanoPuri. “We are in the genetic age. Genetics will be at the center of everything.”

Scholars Demand from governments and businesses is growing. Sanghera plans to build another factory in the next few years, and Asia and the US are not ruled out, but possibly in the UK. “We plan to be a global technology player,” he said.

Founded in 2005 by three scientists who met at Oxford University, it grew out of the research of Hagan Bayley, one of the three who is still a professor of chemical biology there. In traditional sequencing, DNA samples are cut into small pieces and copied, which can introduce errors. Bayley researched how a tiny hole can be used to identify molecules in DNA that pass through a protein, a process that Sanghera compares to “sucking up spaghetti quickly.”

Nanopore’s facility at the Harwell campus near Didcot was built in 2018 in 12 months. It’s here that flow cells are made, a key component of sequencers that must be regularly replaced, like printer cartridges.

Rhodri Davies, Head of Operations at Nanopore, explains how they work: “The nanopore is inserted into a membrane and flows through it. Each side has an ionic solution and some electrodes. When the DNA passes through the pore, it modifies the flow of ions slightly like turning a switch on or off. These different current levels are signals, and our smart electronics convert it into the alphabet of DNA.”

P-chips in factory operation – product chips with sensors; “The heart of the system” – we see a large room with orange light, like a darkroom produced by wafers. In the opposite room, Nanopore staff are busy assembling flow cells using P-chips. The company intends to automate the installation process soon. The sorting machines are made mostly in the UK at different Oxford sites.

The technology is used to track disease outbreaks; It can be widely used to grow crops and protect endangered species. for example, Lara Urban, a Humboldt research fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand, used a handheld Nanopor device in the wild to help conserve the endangered kākāpō parrot.

Nanopore floated on the London Stock Exchange over a year ago in the UK’s best market debut. Shares jumped 44%, turning Sanghera and the other founders into paper millionaires, valuing the company at nearly £5bn. Share prices fell, along with peers on the Nasdaq, including California rival Illumina, which dominates the global sequencing market. Nanopore shares are now worth 279p, compared with 425p.

Sanghera said it reflected the deteriorating business climate and that if Nanopore allowed him and two other executives to block aggressive approaches unless they issued restricted anti-takeover shares, the company would be “sitting down” for a takeover.

Many commercially viable UK science and technology start-ups have been acquired by larger overseas competitors over the years. Sanghera recalled that another Oxford spinout, Medisense, where he started his business, was sold to the American company Abbott in 1996, and in 2007, Illumina acquired Solexa, a Cambridge University spinout based on his technology. . Sanghera said, “We just need to stop this happening.

Sanghera added, referring to the Covid jab developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca[It] made us. [Britain] Think about how to do it yourself.”

Although anti-takeover shares expire in two years. If Nanopore continues to grow at its current pace, “we expect to be in a strong position”.

Nanopore made £52m in one-off sales from its Covid testing kits in the six months to June 30, and £71m from its other devices, more than a third more than last year. It expects revenues of between £145m and £160m this year.

But the British life sciences sector is vast. Revenue from UK companies making life science products fell by £7.7bn at real rates between 2011 and 2020, according to government data.

Sanghera, who served on the Business Leaders’ Council under Theresa May and Boris Johnson, said there was a real desire at a senior level in government to try to make the UK a “life sciences superpower” and create high-tech jobs. “It’s just missing technology companies that can do it with some agility,” he said.


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