2006: Globally accessible Gene Sequencing Technology

Nominated by: UK BioIndustry Association 

Organisation in nomination: Solexa: Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian and Professor Sir David Klenerman

Following establishment of UK SME Solexa in 1997, Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian and Professor Sir David Klenerman worked to develop their idea to improve the speed and cost of decoding DNA by a factor of 100,000-fold.  In 2004, Solexa acquired Swiss developed molecular clustering technology from Manteia which enabled the amplification of single DNA molecules into clusters, enhancing the fidelity and accuracy of gene sequencing, whilst reducing the cost of the system optics through generation of a stronger signal.

The first Solexa sequencer, the Genome Analyzer, was launched in 2006 and gave scientists the power to sequence 1 gigabase (Gb) of data in a single run. This 1G sequencer could sequence a personal genome for about $100,000 in three months.

Solexa became an international public company on NASDAQ,  becoming a $200-million company.  Solexa and its technology were acquired by Illumina in early 2007 for $650 million. In 2015 the technology could sequence a human genome for just $1,000 in about a day – a million-fold improvement on the state-of-the-art at the start of the project in 1997.

Today the DNA sequencing approach is being used for population scale human genome sequencing as well as large-scale clinical sequencing, such as the NHS 100,000 Genomes Project, and is the global market leader in the field with about 80 percent market share.

Solexa sequencing has made very large-scale projects possible, and Solexa-Illumina sequencers are the technology that underpins major global projects such as The 100,000 Genomes Project, COVID 19 Variant understanding, the International Cancer Genome Project, and GenomeAsia 100K.

It is estimated that the Solexa sequencing first envisioned by Klenerman and Balasubramanian is currently used to sequence one million genomes per year.


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