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CTL eNewsletter: May 2008

Mapping the Human Genome for Less than $1,000

Pacific Biosciences logo

Menlo Park, CA- Fast, cheap and accurate DNA sequencing is the holy grail of biotech companies. Sequencing DNA in humans involves tracking the order of about 3 billion nucleotides, the building blocks of genes. Humans have about 36,000 genes spread among 23 pairs of chromosomes that contain the instructions to manage and replicate all aspects of life. Currently, the cost of sequencing DNA for a human is about $350,000 using the Sanger system, used for the Human Genome Project which took approximately 13 years and $3 billion to complete. Pacific Biosciences, a biotech company based in California, aims to revolutionize DNA sequencing by bringing the cost of DNA sequencing the human genome to under a $1,000.

Chief Technology Officer Steve Turner and Cornell University Professor Harold Craighead founded the company, initially called Nanofluidics, around 2002 to commercialize groundbreaking DNA sequencing inventions created at Cornell. After moving from Ithaca, NY, to Menlo Park, California, the company was renamed Pacific Biosciences where it employs over 140 people and has raised almost $80 million so far in funding.

DNA image

A stylized strand of DNA

PacBio's low cost DNA sequencing system is based on a sequencing by synthesis method that uses a SMRT (single molecule real time) system to monitor the real-time processing of DNA nucleotides as they are matched to a single DNA strand. Each nucleotide is illuminated with a florescent light which is recorded by a tiny camera as it "steps up to bat" to be attached to the DNA strand by a DNA polymerase. According to Turner, PacBio is launching its first genome sequencing project, after which it will have a better sense of the overall performance of the system. Right now PacBio's SMRT system is still a few years away from reaching the marketplace. Its current rate reads 10 nucleotide base pairs per second, which PacBio aims to increase to 50 bases per second in its second generation system. In order to make genome sequencing a routine aspect of mainstream medical practice, Turner estimates that the necessary throughput is 100 gigabases per hour, which translates to a human genome, fully sequenced, in 15 minutes.

CCTEC and Cornell Alumni Celebrate Entrepreneurs

Ithaca, NY - On April 11, at the third annual Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration event, CCTEC showcased Cornell technologies and new business opportunities based on Cornell technologies. Cornell inventors and entrepreneurs from the Ithaca campus and the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City mingled with visiting Cornell alumni. Celebrations is an annual event that brings together over 500 students, alumni, faculty and staff to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit. CCTEC held two showcases, one featuring promising new technologies, the second highlighting new businesses.

Presenting inventors (L to R): Michael
Spencer, Matthew Delisa, Francis Barany,
Lonny Levin, CC Chu, and Amit Lal.

The new technologies showcase included:

  • Novel Biodegradable Biomaterials for Delivery of Biologics, Genes and as Templates for Tissue Engineering, CC Chu, Fiber Science & Apparel Design
  • E. Coli Glycosylation System for Recombinant Protein Production, Matthew Delisa, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Innovative Lithography Technique for 10-20 Nanometer Chip Features, Amit Lal, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Novel GaN Techniques for Efficient Bulk Synthesis of Boules, Powder and Production of Thin Films, Michael Spencer, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Coferon Drug Design Platform, Francis Barany, Microbiology and Immunology, Weill Cornell Medical College
  • Anti-infectives Drug Discovery Platform, Lonny Levin, Pharmacology, Weill Cornell Medical College

In CCTEC's new business showcase, representatives from businesses based on Cornell technologies included Big Red Berry Production System, BZL Biologics, GeneWeave BioSciences, Novomer, Terrenew and Widetronix.

To learn more about Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration, click here.


Upcoming Events

Boot Camp

Date: June 5, 2008
Time: 8:00AM - 8:30PM
Location: Statler Hotel, Yale/Princeton Room

Day long event culminating in a networking cocktail reception and dinner for attendees. Panels of experts in the areas of life sciences and physical sciences as well as a legal and operational issues panel. Our key note lunch speaker will be John Alexander,'74, founder of The CBORD Group.

Inventions Roundtable™ - Central Nervous System Therapeutics & Drug Delivery

Date: June 10, 2008
Time: 8:30AM - 1:30PM
Location: CCTEC office suite 310, 395 Pine Tree Road

Half day event focused on three Cornell technologies in the area of Central Nervous System Therapeutics and Drug Delivery. Invited guests will provide feedback on each of the technologies in the areas of marketability, application, etc.

Cornell Reception at BIO 2008

Date: June 18, 2008
Time: 6:00PM - 9:00PM
Location: San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina, Columbia Room

Cornellians, including alumni, are invited to the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina’s Columbia Room to enjoy a night of fun over beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres during this year's BIO International Convention. At the event attendees can network and share stories with fellow Cornellians as well as CCTEC staff and learn about technology opportunities at Cornell. In the course of the reception, CCTEC will be unveiling the Cornell BioPharma Network (CBPN), a private social network that is a part of CCTEC's Cornellboration (TM) wikiportal to promote networking between the Ithaca campus, the Weill Cornell Medical College campus and Cornellians who are in the industy.

Recent Events

Seminar & Social Hour™

Date: April 29, 2008

CCTEC professionals joined MBA students from the Entrepreneur and Venture Capital Club to hear about a Cornell startup over free drinks and hors d'oeuvres. CCTEC's last S&S until the fall, showcased an exciting speaker: Rajit Manohar, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the co-founder/CTO of Achronix Semiconductor Corporation. He shared his experience starting the company and answered questions from attendees.

"Alan Paau, CCTEC's Executive Director and Vice Provost for Technology Transfer and Economic Development, presents a matching check to Leonardo Teixeira, Jason Springs, and Diego Rey from GeneWeave BioSciences. GeneWeave won second place in the Big Red Ventures Big Idea Competition at this year's Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebrations event and CCTEC agreed to match the $2500 prize."

CCTEC New Business & Emerging Technology Showcase™

Date: April 11, 2008

Every spring, the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Program holds a multi-day celebration of entrepreneurship happening in and around Cornell. During Celebration, CCTEC hosted two showcases featuring emerging technologies and new business opportunities.

For photos and more information about our showcases please click here.

University Research & Entrepreneurship Symposium 2008

Date: April 3, 2008

CCTEC participated in The University Research & Entrepreneurship Symposium (URES) 2008 an invitation-only, one-day conference established to bring world-class research universities to Boston and to showcase them before a group of New England's top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. CCTEC presented a new wireless receiver technology which offers critical advantages over competing technology in the areas of cost and adaptability.

IP & Pizza™, College of Engineering

Date: March 31, 2008

Attendees enjoyed free pizza and a town hall style meeting to discuss intellectual property and technology transfer issues. Allied Minds, a pre-seed investment company, spoke about how they took a technology from bench to industry.

IP & Pizza™, Department of Biochemistry, Weill Cornell Medical College

Date: February 4, 2008

Attendees enjoyed free pizza and an open format discussion on technology transfer issues. Robin Chadwick from Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner led a short conversation on patenting proteins and small molecules.