New Sequencer Reads 1 Billion Nucleotides for $5

San Diego-based Element Biosciences unveiled a commercial DNA sequencer last Monday. The device, called Aviti, could also be "adapted to study RNA, proteins, and cells," according to reporting by STAT.

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Good morning. San Diego-based Element Biosciences unveiled a commercial DNA sequencer last Monday. The device, called Aviti, could also be "adapted to study RNA, proteins, and cells," according to reporting by STAT.

The company's DNA sequencers will ship in a few months, and use a unique type of chemistry not found in other commercial devices. It will cost an estimated $5 to $7 to sequence one billion nucleotides. Each machine is priced just under $300,000, and the sequencing workflow is "PCR-free," according to the company's website. The machines use a "single flow cell and sequencing reagent cartridge" that, much like standard Illumina devices, offer a 2 x 150 paired end read length. Each flow cell outputs about 240 Gigabytes of data.

Cambridge-based next-generation sequencing pro, @AlbertVilella, tweeted about the launch. "A difference of 100-fold reduction in reagent consumption per cycle" for the Element Biosciences sequencer compared to other sequencing methods, he wrote, "which makes the system more cost effective."

Read more at Element Biosciences.


mRNA Vaccine for HIV

Moderna dosed the first participant in a phase I trial for an mRNA-based HIV vaccine, according to a company press release issued on Monday.

The vaccine, called mRNA-1574, will be tested in about 100 HIV-negative adults, aged 18 to 55 years old. The trial is being sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, in the U.S., and is listed on ClinicalTrials.gov. The vaccine is delivered into the shoulder muscle at a dose of either 100 micrograms or 250 micrograms. The company is collecting blood and lymph node samples from each participant, at regular timepoints, to monitor their immune response. Expected completion date: October 2023.

Read more at Fierce Biotech.


Medicaid's Cracks

Gene therapies for sickle cell disease are in the final stretches. Both Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Bluebird Bio have a candidate therapy, and each company is weaving its way through the bubbling swamp that is the U.S. regulatory system. Both sickle cell treatments are likely to carry a massive price tag.

That's a concern, writes Ed Silverman for STAT, because an estimated 40 percent of patients with sickle cell disease are covered by Medicaid, a government-backed program that helps pay healthcare costs for the poorest Americans.

Treating sickle cell disease in the U.S. cost over $811.4 million in 2016, with over 134,000 hospital stays, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. A (potentially) one dose treatment for the condition, then, could still be a massive boon. Finding a price point accessible to patients on Medicaid, though, will be key.

Read more at STAT.


Briefly Noted

Synthetic biology giant, Ginkgo Bioworks, acquired FGen Ag, a Swiss company with "an ultra-high-throughput screening platform built on nanoliter reaction technology," according to a press release. The acquisition will help Ginkgo screen engineered strains faster. PR Newswire

Sherlock Biosciences, the CRISPR diagnostics company founded on the back of seminal papers by Omar Abudayyeh and Jonathan Gootenberg, raised $80 million in a series B funding round. Their aim: Make at-home test kits, powered by CRISPR. Fierce Biotech

C. Thomas Caskey, professor of human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and pioneer of DNA forensics, has died at 83. Caskey discovered that transfer RNAs in bacteria, amphibians and mammals all use three-nucleotide codons to build proteins in much the same way, thus deciphering the 'universality' of life's code. Nature

Oregon State University has launched a Genetic Code Expansion center, the first of its kind. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the facilities will focus on "revolutionizing protein-focused biomedical and materials research," presumably by following research threads pioneered by Jason Chin, Peter Schultz and others. Oregon State

The San Diego-based enzymatic DNA synthesis company, Molecular Assemblies, Inc., raised $25.8 million in a Series B funding round. The company's patented tech aims, upon market release, to synthesize oligonucleotides that are several times longer, and much purer, than oligos made with conventional phosphoramidite chemistry. Molecular Assemblies

The U.S. Food and Drug administration released an updated draft of recommendations for clinical trials involving human gene editing. FDA

A profile of Mammoth Bioscience's co-founder, Janice Chen. CNBC

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Until next time,

—Niko