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August 18, 2010

Life Tech Snaps Up Ion Torrent in $375–$725M Deal for Semiconductor Sequencing Platform

Ion plans to launch sub-$100,000 mid-scale benchtop system this year. [© marc hericher - Fotolia.com]

  • Life Technologies is buying Ion Torrent for $375 million in cash and shares. Ion shareholders could receive another $350 million in cash and Life Tech stock dependent on the achievement of certain milestones over the next couple of years.

    Ion is exploiting what it terms PostLight™ technology to develop a semiconductor chip-based sequencing system. The firm claims this approach to sequencing is the first of its kind to negate the need for optical detection techniques currently used in all other sequencing platforms. It aims to launch its first commercial product later this year. The benchtop Personal Genome Machine for mid-scale sequencing projects is expected to have an entry cost of under $100,000.

    “We believe Ion Torrent’s technology will represent a profound change for the life science industry,” comments Gregory T. Lucier, Life Tech’s chairman and CEO. “This technology will usher in a new era in science, one in which DNA sequencing can be done easier, faster, and more cost effectively than ever before. By leveraging the cumulative $1 trillion already invested in semiconductor research and development, we believe that Ion Torrent will drive unprecedented scalability, delivering the solution required for future generations of sequencing.”

    Ion’s DNA sequencing system effectively translates signals from chemical bases directly into digital information on a semiconductor chip. The technology requires no proprietary chemistries or optics, but instead directly detects nucleotide incorporation into a strand by sensing the charged hydrogen ion released and recording the event as a digital signal, Ion states. This direct detection translates to almost instant recording, which means an entire sequencing run can be completed in about an hour, it claims

    The Personal Genome Machine is currently available through an early access program. The firm says subsequent products will benefit from the latest semiconductor fabrication technologies, which will cut sequencing costs even further.