Speed-Reading the Genome

Reading genomes is a messy business. Even the terminology—like "shotgun"—evokes images of inelegant science. But Woburn, Mass.-based US Genomics plans to change that. Inventor Eugene Chan based the GeneEngine™ on the same mechanisms cells use to read DNA. He designed a system in which DNA is first linearized and then threaded through a nanofluidic chip at high speeds. Before the analysis, the DNA sample is treated with a set of fluorescently labeled tetramers that cover the thr

Jim Kling
May 12, 2002
Reading genomes is a messy business. Even the terminology—like "shotgun"—evokes images of inelegant science. But Woburn, Mass.-based US Genomics plans to change that. Inventor Eugene Chan based the GeneEngine™ on the same mechanisms cells use to read DNA. He designed a system in which DNA is first linearized and then threaded through a nanofluidic chip at high speeds. Before the analysis, the DNA sample is treated with a set of fluorescently labeled tetramers that cover the three million or so known human single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). "What we recognize is sets of sequences as opposed to the base pair," says Chan, the company's chairman and CEO.

The result is a device with the potential to analyze a single, long strand of DNA. That means far less handling of DNA and therefore fewer problems with contamination and loss. Chan claims that it is also faster than existing systems; it analyzes 10...