Illumina

UW technology key to growth as firm stays in Madison long after sale

By David Tenenbaum, UW-Madison

Epicentre, a Madison firm that prospered by licensing a biological discovery from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, continues to grow here five years after being sold to Illumina Inc. of San Diego.

Illumina makes next-generation sequencing systems, which are revolutionizing biology with ultra-fast deciphering of the bases, or letters, in genes. In an hour, its machines can do what took months or years just 15 years ago.

The explosion in next-generation sequencing has opened windows throughout medicine and biology. It allows researchers to look at the genetic changes that help cancer spread during metastasis. It allows better understanding of antibiotic resistance, and the relationships among the vast and varied human family. And it’s key to the effort to adapt treatments to individuals — called personalized medicine.

Ironically, sample prep for this ultra-fast system was, well, not so fast, says Nick Caruccio, general manager of the Illumina-Madison site.

The Epicentre technology that interested Illumina, which accelerates the task of preparing samples for high-speed sequencing, is based on a discovery from the UW–Madison lab of Professor Emeritus William Reznikoff, who studied transposition — the natural movement of genes inside an organism. Read more …

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