HMS Licenses Technology to Swedish Biotech Firm

A Swedish biotech firm has signed an exclusive agreement with Harvard Medical School (HMS) that provides the firm broad access to nucleic acid technology developed by HMS.

The new discoveries, which can be used in medical applications such as DNA sequencing, were developed at the Lipper Center for Computational Genetics in the lab of Harvard professor George Church.

“The ultimate goal of our own academic project would be to reduce the cost of sequencing a genome from the original cost of $3 billion dollars for the 1990- 2005 Human Genome Project toward $1,000 per genome that would be more conducive to individual citizens knowing their own genome,” Church, a professor of Genetics at HMS, wrote in an e-mail.

Church, who is also director of the Lipper Center, said the DNA project has been ongoing since 1987 and was primarily funded by a Department of Energy grant.

“The impact for Harvard and beyond is modest, but [it] is an example of successful technology transfer to one of the key companies in the field of genetic variation,” Church wrote.

Church said that negotiations to license the technology had been ongoing with various firms since 2000.

“Access to the Harvard technology provides us with unique tools that can be used to develop additional sequencing and detection products with Pyrosequencing’s platform technologies,” Bjorn Ekstrom, Pyrosequencing AB vice president and chief technology officer, said in a press release.

Neither Pyrosequencing nor HMS was willing to disclose the exact terms of agreement or the amount that Harvard received under the new agreement.

According to the Theresa McNeely, senior director of investor and public relations at Pyrosequencing AB’s Massachusetts office, terms of the agreement will be released once the agreement is fully underway.

HMS licenses its research projects to commercial institutions so that the general public can have access to and make use of this technology, according to HMS spokesperson Don Gibbons. In fact, the 1984 Bayh-Dole Act requires universities that have acquired federal funding for their research to commercialize their projects so that the technology can have an impact in the society.

“[Licensing] is not only dictated by our internal policies, but also by agreements with sponsors of research and, in the case of publicly-funded inventions, by federal regulations and guidelines,” Fenerjian said.

Typically, Harvard looks for good matches between technologies developed at the University and various small and large companies in the same field when licensing its technologies, according to Church.

He added that some potential future directions and possible applications of the technology would be discussed at the Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference in Boston, which started yesterday.