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Belgium lays the foundation for multi-billion-dollar company in DNA technology

A discovery in a Brussels lab is at the basis of a new, widely applicable technology for reading DNA. ‘This can take medical research to a different level and trigger a new wave of breakthroughs in cancers and brain diseases.’

Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) is making a furore in the biotech industry. At a capital round last month, it was valued at £ 2.5 billion. Since the start-up, investors have put more than half a billion in ONT. Now ONT is in the last straight line for an introduction to the London Stock Exchange.

The American Illumina – with a stock market value of more than 50 billion dollars – is (still) the undisputed leader in the market of equipment for reading DNA, the carrier of hereditary traits. Sequencing in the jargon.

Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) developed a new way to read DNA. It allows to study genetic changes in more detail and gives research on cancer, brain diseases and microbiome an extra push. At the heart of ONT’s devices is technology, the foundation of which was laid by Han Remaut, a researcher at VIB (Flemish Institute for Biotechnology).

The fact that the American pharma giant Amgen is a shareholder, among others, says a lot. ‘ONT offers a look into a part of the genome that was still unattainable. It provides new insights that can be useful in many disease areas’, was the motivation of Amgen at the time.

DNA sequencing is a crucial technique in modern science. ‘It is the basis of the major breakthroughs of the past decade’, says Toon Swings of the tech Watch Team of the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB).

“In Antwerp, ONT’s technology is used to detect signs of brain diseases at a very early stage. In Leuven to better map the link between intestinal bacteria and diseases. “

Sequencing was the engine of, among other things, the unprecedented acceleration of the development of cancer treatments that are specifically tailored to the patient’s genetic profile. It has also led to the identification of many thousands of genetic diseases, and the notion that our gut flora may play a critical role in diseases, such as obesity or Alzheimer’s disease, and a quick insight into the properties of the corona virus.

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