Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd is developing a disruptive, proprietary technology platform for the direct, electronic analysis of single molecules. The instruments MinION, PromethION and GridION are adaptable for the analysis of DNA, RNA, proteins, small molecules and other types of molecule. Consequently, the platform has a broad range of potential applications, including scientific research, personalised medicine, crop science and security/defence.
Frequently asked questions about the Company and its technology are shown below. For greater detail please browse the rest of our website.
What is Oxford Nanopore Technologies®?
The Company was founded in 2005 to develop a disruptive, electronic, single molecule sensing system based on nanopore science. The Company now has more than 250 employees from multiple disciplines including nanopore science, molecular biology and applications, informatics, engineering, electronics, manufacturing and commercialisation. The management team, led by CEO Dr Gordon Sanghera, has a track record of delivering disruptive technologies to the market.
Oxford Nanopore was founded on the science of Professor Hagan Bayley of the University of Oxford. In 2008 the Company created a series of collaborations with world-leading nanopore researchers at other institutions including Harvard, University of California Santa Cruz and Boston University. Further collaborations have since been added; these, in combination with in-house expertise and Intellectual Property give the company a leading position in nanopore technology.
Oxford Nanopore is based at the Oxford Science Park outside Oxford, UK, with satellite offices in Cambridge (UK), New York and Boston.
What is a nanopore?
A nanopore is a very small hole. The first generation of Oxford Nanopore's technology used bespoke pore-forming proteins to create holes in membranes formed from lipid bilayers and since then proprietary membranes have been developed that can be shipped with nanopores pre-embedded. Multiple nanopore measurements are made sequentially or in parallel using the company's proprietary arrayed sensor chip, contained within the miniaturised MinION device, the benchtop PromethION system and the GridION platform.
Future generations of nanopore-based sensing technology may combine protein nanopores with membranes made from synthetic materials or be composed of pores in synthetic materials such as silicon nitride or graphene ('solid-state' nanopores). Oxford Nanopore has collaborations and a broad intellectual property estate in all of these areas.
What does the platform technology consist of?
The MinION consists of the device and a consumable flow cell. The flow cell has a sensor chip containing multiple microscaffolds, each one supporting an individual nanopore sensor. A polymer membrane is formed over the surface of these microscaffolds and the modified protein nanopores are contained in these membranes. Each nanopore is a single addressable electronic channel capable of individual identification of analyte molecules. The array chip is accompanied by an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) that controls and measures currents during nanopore experiments.
The sensor chip and ASIC are also contained within the benchtop PromethION and the GridION platform.
How does nanopore sensing work?
A nanopore may be used to identify an analyte directly and electronically. A nanopore forms a hole in an electronically resistant membrane which is bathed in physiological solution. A voltage is applied across the membrane in which the pore is set, and the resulting ionic current through the pore is measured. When an analyte of interest passes through the pore or near its aperture, it creates a characteristic disruption in current. This disruption may be used to identify the molecule in question. This is done without the need for optical labelling or amplification of the target molecule.
How does nanopore DNA sequencing work?
DNA sequencing is available on the MinION in the MinION Access Programme. In this method, a protein nanopore is combined with an enzyme designed to ratchet a single strand of DNA through the nanopore, enabling identification of the bases in sequence as they pass through the pore.
What are the benefits of using nanopores to sequence DNA?
In contrast to current sequencing technologies, nanopores can measure single molecules directly, without the need for nucleic acid amplification, fluorescent/chemical labelling or optical instrumentation. The system is scalable as single nanopores can be set within individual wells in an arrayed silicon chip. The format of the MinION, PromethION and GridION systems allow increased capacity while offering flexibility to only use the number of nanopores required for the experiment. Only with nanopores can electronic data be streamed in real-time, so that experimental analyses are performed as the experiment progresses and the user can Run until... their biological question is answered.
DNA sequencing is increasingly becoming the readout of choice for life science analyses. However, existing technologies still have limitations and the Oxford Nanopore systems have been designed to provide competitive standard metrics and deliver new benefits including long read lengths, improved workflows, simplified analyses and analysis of modified bases.
What else can the proprietary platform be used for?
Oxford Nanopore is developing a modular technology. By adapting the nanopore within the overall sensing platform, it is possible to detect a variety of molecules.
For example, the Company is developing methods of protein analysis using nanopores, where a protein-specific aptamer is combined with a nanopore. The presence of the target protein in solution results in a binding event with the aptamer and nanopore. The resulting electronic signals can be interpreted to provide rich information about the presence of the target protein in solution and the concentration of that protein.
This method of protein analysis has potential in the discovery and validation of protein biomarkers and the development of subsequent diagnostics for those proteins.