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Eyes on the Ion
August 2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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BOSTON—Boston Children's Hospital, which touts itself as the home of the world's largest pediatric research enterprise, and Carlsbad, Calif.-based Life Technologies Corp. in late June announced a research and development collaboration to develop an end-to-end genetic sequencing lab workflow based on Life Technologies' Ion Proton Sequencer. In this effort, the two parties plan to collaborate on the development of an optimized laboratory infrastructure and lab protocols for an advanced sequencing facility that will be built at Boston Children's Hospital in compliance with CLIA and CAP certification standards.  
 
Dr. Paul Billings, chief medical officer at Life Technologies, says the opportunity to partner with Boston Children's Hospital is exciting because it offers a chance to collaborate with world-renowned experts in pediatric genetic disease and demonstrate best practices for using the Ion Torrent sequencing platform, adding, "Partnerships like these are essential to our medical sciences strategy as we seek to assist researchers in discovering improved diagnostics and treatments for genetic conditions."  
 
For his part, Dr. David Margulies, director of the Gene Partnership Program at Boston Children's Hospital, anticipates that the hospital will benefit from Life Technologies' "leading expertise in DNA sequencing technology and bioinformatics" being added to the clinical research, genomics and informatics expertise of Boston Children's Hospital.  
 
"This collaboration is an important first step toward providing informed, personalized care for patients whose conditions are difficult to treat," according to Margulies. "The development of an optimized laboratory infrastructure will support our mission of providing the highest-quality, innovative and cost-effective care to our patients. "
 
The Ion Proton Sequencer is designed to sequence an entire human genome in a day for approximately $1,000. Unlike traditional next-generation systems, Life Technologies reports, it relies on semiconductor chips to map human exomes and genomes, making it much faster and less expensive to analyze DNA "at unprecedented throughput levels and generate accurate sequencing data."  
 
The basic Ion Proton System is structured around the same technology as its predecessor, the Ion Personal Genome Machine (PGM), which is designed for sequencing small genomes or sets of genes. Combined with the AmpliSeq targeted sequencing technology, researchers can sequence panels of genes associated with disease on the PGM or exomes and genomes on the Ion Proton Sequencer in just a few hours, according to Life Technologies.  
 
The news of the Boston Children's Hospital deal followed a mere day after an announcement that The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, had adopted the Ion Proton Sequencer platform as a key means to launch its new Centre for Genetic Medicine. The pairing with Life Technologies in this case was characterized as a "long-term partnership" that will focus on sequencing 10,000 genomes per year to "revolutionize" pediatric disease research in Canada.  
 
The Hospital for Sick Children and Life Technologies reportedly will collaborate on developing sequencing workflows and protocols for the Ion Proton System that are tailored for studies of interest to researchers in the new center. The first collaborative project will focus on sequencing clinical research samples to better understand the genetics behind autism, with the 10,000 genomes per year effort to study various diseases in children being a longer-term goal.  
 
"The perfect storm of unparalleled advances in genome sequencing technology and information science, and a captivated hospital striving for new ways to move forward in medical treatment, bring us to this important day," said Dr. Stephen Scherer, co-director of the Centre for Genetic Medicine, who also leads the Centre for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children. "We are very excited to work with Life Technologies to enhance our sequencing capabilities, such that 'genomic surveillance' may soon become the first line of investigation in all clinical research studies ongoing at our institution."  
 
"With the help of this new technology, we will be able to further deepen our understanding of the genetic basis of human disease and translate this directly into daily clinical practice," added Dr. Ronald Cohn, the other co-director of the Centre for Genetic Medicine. "We have finally reached a point where individualized medicine is not just a theoretical concept, but will become an integral part of clinical care and management."
 

 
Life Technologies licenses iPSC portfolio to iPS Academia Japan  
 
CARLSBAD, Calif.—Life Technologies Corp. also recently announced that it has signed a non-exclusive agreement with iPS Academia Japan (AJ) for its induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) patent portfolio.
 
Life Technologies said the worldwide license will enable the company to expand its range of products and services for the iPSC research community.  
 
Scientists use iPSC technology to create iPSCs from patient-derived adult cells. The iPSCs can then be differentiated into many primary cell types, such as neurons and hepatocytes, to be studied in the lab. The ability to develop cells from people with particular conditions of interest gives researchers the ability to study the genetics behind patient-specific diseases in an effort to test or develop new potential treatments.
 
"Because iPS cells are gaining greater attention for uses in drug discovery and disease research as well as other areas of biotechnology, distribution of iPS cell products or provision of services is important for gaining momentum in iPS cell research," said Shosaku Murayama, president and CEO of AJ. "We believe that Life Technologies' business will contribute to boost research and development for practical application of iPS cell technology. We hope for further advancement of the iPS cell technology and its practical use in the coming years, and we continue to support expanding the iPS cell technology by licensing our patent portfolio. "  
 
AJ is an affiliate of Kyoto University, and its main role is to manage and utilize the patents and other intellectual properties held or controlled by Kyoto and other universities. AJ's patent portfolio consists of more than 60 patent families in the iPSC technology, and has executed about 50 license arrangements with domestic or international enterprises.
 
Code: E081210

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