Mark Akeson has been working on nanopore sequencing at UC Santa Cruz’s biophysics lab for twenty years. Up until the past few years with the launch of Oxford Nanopore’s sequencers, that work was mostly the methodical toil of the quiet inventor.
Today it is quite ordinary to see a sequencer the size of your wallet being taken out into the field for DNA work. But for years, the naysayers dominated.
“Back in the day, the skeptics outnumbered the proponents 99 to 1,” Mark says in today’s show.
In his beginning-of-the-year blog, NIH Director, Francis Collins, called nanopore sequencing one of the four breakthroughs of 2016. And the NIH deserves some credit. Mark says they were constant in their funding and belief in the technology.
With the success of nanopore sequencing technology has come legal battles to secure the IP. Both Illumina and PacBio have sued Oxford Nanopore—the Illumina suit is now settled. And at the end of last month, Akeson’s lab (meaning the University of California) sued Genia, claiming that they owned the patents for Genia’s technology. Genia was founded in 2009 and we have interviewed them several times since 2011.
“There's the old adage about once something succeeds, there’s all sorts of people who claim to have invented it,” says Mark.
So what’s next for Mark? Is he on board the “long read train?” How much more can sequencing improve?