A Medical Device Daily

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH, Bethesda Maryland) awarded more than $15 million in grants to support development of innovative technologies with the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of DNA sequencing.

The new grants will fund eight investigators to develop technologies that would make it possible to sequence a genome for $1,000, as well as three investigators developing nearer-term technologies to sequence a genome for $100,000. Both approaches have many complementary elements that integrate biochemistry, chemistry and physics with engineering to enhance the whole effort to develop the next generation of DNA sequencing and analysis technologies.

NHGRI's near-term goal is to lower the cost of sequencing a mammalian-sized genome to $100,000, allowing researchers to sequence the genomes of hundreds or even thousands of people as part of studies to identify genes that contribute to common, complex diseases. Ultimately, NHGRI's vision is to cut the cost of whole-genome sequencing to $1,000 or less, which will enable the sequencing of individual genomes as part of routine medical care. The ability to sequence an individual genome cost-effectively could enable healthcare professionals to tailor diagnosis, treatment and prevention to each person's unique genetic profile.

DNA sequencing costs have fallen more than 50-fold over the past decade, fueled in large part by tools, technologies and process improvements developed as part of the successful effort to sequence the human genome. However, it still costs as much as $5 million to sequence 3 billion base pairs — the amount of DNA found in the genomes of humans and other mammals.

In other grant offerings:

Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, (Foxborough, Massachusetts) Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island) and the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation Center at the Case Western Reserve University (both, Cleveland) reported that they will act as a consortium pursuant to a five-year, $6.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH, Bethesda, Maryland) to support the development of Cyberkinetics' BrainGate Neural Interface System (BrainGate System). The grant was awarded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (Bethesda, Maryland) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Rockville, Maryland), both constituents of the NIH. The goal of the BrainGate System is to provide a reliable, fully implantable and wireless neuroprosthesis that enables paralyzed people to use their own limbs to perform tasks such as eating, drinking, and controlled breathing, as well as to regain bowel and bladder function.

According to the terms of the grant, Cyberkinetics may receive up to $2.5 million of the total grant award during the five-year period covered by the agreement. The grant represents non-dilutive funding for the development of the BrainGate System.

The BrainGate Neural Interface System is an investigational brain-computer interface (BCI) consisting of an internal sensor to detect brain cell activity and external processors that convert brain signals into a computer-mediated output under the person's own control. The sensor is a tiny silicon chip about the size of a baby aspirin with one hundred electrodes, each thinner than a human hair, that can detect the electrical activity of neurons. The sensor is implanted on the area of the brain responsible for movement, the motor cortex, where it detects and transmits neural signals to computers that analyze the signals.

Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems develops neural stimulation, sensing and processing technology.