8 March 2016

An exciting European collaboration between industry and academia has been announced to develop a new DNA sequencing nanopore pioneered from work undertaken in the laboratory of  Dr Han Remaut of VIB and Vrije Universiteit Brussel together with Dr Stefan Howorka, department of Chemistry at UCL.

VIB, a life sciences research institute together with UCL Business PLC, the technology transfer office of UCL, have been working collaboratively with Oxford Nanopore Technologies to enable the development of a new nanopore sensing technology originating from research undertaken in the laboratory of Dr Remaut, which led to the elucidation of unique mechanistic and structural features of the pore protein, termed CsgG.

CsgG forms a membrane pore through which proteins are transported in certain bacteria, as previously published in Nature1. Together with co-author Dr Howorka, it was postulated that these features could potentially make CsgG a prime candidate for nanopore sensing applications.

Nanopore sequencing is a technology where strands of DNA are guided through a narrow protein pore – a nanopore – and the variations in the ionic current through the pore are indicative of what nucleotides (DNA letters) are passing through. As such, the sequence of the pore-threading DNA strands is decoded. The structure of the nanopore greatly influences many aspects of the sensing process, for example the speed at which the DNA can be passed through the nanopore and the potential quality of the sequence reads.

Preliminary tests in 2014-2015 indicated that CsgG-derivatives give stable currents and generate data of superior quality as compared to other nanopore sensors. Oxford Nanopore has since been fine-tuning the structure of the nanopore for optimal sensing and integration into its electronic sensing devices and the latest version will soon feature as ‘R9’ in the MinIONTM handheld DNA sequencer and the PromethIONTM system.

Dr. Howorka commented: “It is very satisfying to see research from my academic lab contributing to the development of portable sequencing technology. The development of nanopore sensing has grown in 15 years from idea to reality.

1 Parveen Goyal, Petya V. Krasteva, Nani Van Gerven, Francesca Gubellini, Imke Van den Broeck, Anastassia Troupiotis-Tsaïlaki, Wim Jonckheere, Gérard Péhau-Arnaudet, Jerome S. Pinkner, Matthew R. Chapman, Scott J. Hultgren, Stefan Howorka, Rémi Fronzes & Han Remaut; Structural and mechanistic insights into the bacterial amyloid secretion channel CsgG. Nature 516(7530):250-3, 2014. doi: 10.1038/nature13768.

About VIB
Basic research in life sciences is VIB’s raison d’être. On the one hand, we are pushing the boundaries of what we know about molecular mechanisms and how they rule living organisms such as human beings, animals, plants and microorganisms. On the other, we are creating tangible results for the benefit of society. Based on a close partnership with five Flemish universities – Ghent University, KU Leuven, University of Antwerp, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Hasselt University – and supported by a solid funding program, VIB unites the expertise of 75 research groups in a single institute. VIB’s technology transfer activities translate research results into new economic ventures which, in time, lead to new products that can be used in medicine, agriculture and other applications. VIB also engages actively in the public debate on biotechnology by developing and disseminating a wide range of science-based information about all aspects of biotechnology.

For further information, please visit: www.vib.be

About Vrije Universiteit Brussel
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is a thriving university in the heart of Belgium and Europe, which in 1969-1970 split off from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), founded in 1834. VUB combines excellence in teaching with excellence in research. Several of its 150 research groups are topranked worldwide. The principle of independent research is central at VUB, but the quality of its undergraduate and graduate programs is no less important, as the university provides an environment where students are treated as individuals and supported in their personal development. Currently, VUB has some 9,000 students and 2,700 staff, divided over eight faculties and two Brussels campuses (in Etterbeek/Elsene and Jette). The VUB University Hospital is adjacent to the Medical Sciences campus in Jette and employs 3,000 people.

For further information, please visit: www.vub.ac.be

About UCL Business PLC
UCL Business PLC (UCLB) is a leading technology transfer company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. UCLB has a strong track record in commercialising medical technologies and provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market.

For further information, please visit: www.uclb.com – Twitter: @UCL_Business