CAMBRIDGE, England, and MENLO PARK, California, August 27 /PRNewswire/ --
Solexa Ltd., today announced the appointment of John West as its new CEO.
Solexa is developing single molecule arrays, a form of nanotechnology
expected to enable the independent analysis of up to a billion individual DNA
molecules in parallel. This technology is expected to transform genetics
research and ultimately, molecular diagnostics.
Mr. West will be responsible for leading the Company through product
launch and subsequent corporate growth. He succeeds Nick McCooke, who has led
Solexa through a very successful period of early development.
Commenting on his initial experience at Solexa, Mr West said: "On joining
Solexa, I have been impressed with how far it has progressed toward practical
implementation. I have seen numerous advanced technologies proposed for DNA
analysis since the early 1980's and almost none have reached the market.
Solexa, on the other hand, has quietly and carefully worked on the core
chemistry and enzymology it needs and has made remarkable progress. Its
recent insightful acquisition of DNA cluster technology has now closed the
signal-to-noise gap it faced, and should enable shipments in 2005.
"While other companies propose stretching the microtiter plate concept to
the limit with expensive microfluidic designs, Solexa has moved directly to
the molecular level. This promises thousand fold higher density than the
finest microfluidic chambers, with none of the complexity."
Mr West joined Solexa from Applied Biosystems, Inc. (AB) where he was
Vice President of DNA Platforms. This included responsibility for the
company's instrument and reagent products for DNA sequencing, gene
expression, genotyping, PCR and DNA synthesis. His group developed and
launched the instruments that now populate virtually all genome sequencing
centers worldwide. He also had business responsibility for AB's first gene
expression array system, for its real-time PCR instruments, and for its
microfluidic PCR products.
During his 22 years in the industry, Mr. West has held senior positions,
including President of Princeton Instruments, Inc., President and Founder of
BioAutomation, Inc. and Marketing Director for Microfluidics at Microcosm
Technologies, Inc. During Mr. West's term at Princeton Instruments, the
company introduced the first low light imaging system for single molecule
fluorescence - and Solexa, at that time a startup, bought one of the first
units. Mr. West holds BS and MS degrees in engineering from MIT and an MBA in
Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Welcoming Mr West to the Company and the Board, Dr Tim Rink, Solexa's
Chairman said: "John brings a wealth of skills and experience that will be
vital to Solexa as it commercialises its advanced genetic analysis
technology. He brings both large company organisation and process experience
and smaller company entrepreneurial leadership background. He has built
market-leading businesses with dramatic revenue growth in market and
technology areas very relevant to Solexa's aims.
"On behalf of the board and the investors I would also like to thank Nick
McCooke for his able stewardship and hard work that has brought Solexa so
far, so quickly."
Mr McCooke will remain with the Company for an interim period in order to
effect a smooth transition.
Solexa's ultimate goal is to develop systems capable of individual human
genome analysis within the financial constraints of the medical diagnostic
industry. This would transform genetic diagnostics from target-specific
confirmatory tests (niche products) into ubiquitous hypothesis-free baseline
medical data. The ability to read the whole genome sequence and/or gene
expression profiles of individuals, quickly and economically, will also be a
fundamental tool in the development of the biological and medical sciences in
the 21st century.
Solexa is a private company developing instrument and reagent systems
based on single molecule array technology. In this technology, arrays are
formed by depositing a dense lawn of molecules on a surface similar to a
microscope slide. The individual molecules are then analysed in place, with
the spatial resolution of the array determined by the size of the molecules
rather than by a photolithographically defined microfluidic cell or
hybridisation pixel. This advantage is extended by use of a novel chemistry
that builds up data, base-by-base, at each molecule. Compared with
conventional arrays, that provide a single reading at each location, this
gives single molecule arrays a third dimension, greatly expanding the amount
of data generated per array. With this technology, single molecule arrays are
expected to provide data densities approximately a thousand fold higher than
those of arrays based on either hybridisation or micro-PCR wells.
Detection of single molecules is extremely challenging technologically.
While Solexa has made significant progress towards pure single molecule
arrays as its ultimate goal, it has acquired cluster technology - in which
PCR is used to amplify individual molecules - to let it reach market much
more quickly. Solexa is the only company with access to both pure single
molecule and amplified single molecule array platform technologies. This
establishes a roadmap for successful early product launch with a sustained
price / performance advantage into the future.
With the potential to sequence as many as a billion separate DNA
molecules in parallel, Solexa's technology is expected to allow a single
instrument to re-sequence a complete human genome at ten fold coverage in ten
days. With this throughput, the technology can also potentially support
analysis of over a thousand whole-genome gene expression profiles in parallel
on a single instrument. This throughput, tremendously valuable in its own
right, also provides an unprecedented cost advantage in both areas of genetic
Since Solexa arrays are based on analysis of individual molecules, the
amount of material needed for each analysis is vanishingly small. This may
enable genome-scale analysis from as little as a few cells. This sensitivity
level in itself is expected to enable new experiments, with cancer and stem
cell samples in particular.
Solexa was spun out of Cambridge University in 1998 and now employs a
broadly international staff of 47, mostly PhD scientists. To date, it has
raised $42 million in venture capital. By combining first rate internal
development with insightful external acquisition, Solexa has built the
leading intellectual property estate in the field of single molecule array
technology. Initial revenues are expected in 2005.
Further information can be found at www.solexa.com