The KTH spin-off which will take a billion-dollar market by storm
Bederoff, J. (2023) KTH spinoffen som ska ta miljardmarknad med storm [The KTH spin-off which will take a billion-dollar market by storm] Dagens Industri, 10 november 2023. Retrieved on 13 november 2023: https://www.di.se/nyheter/kth-spinoffen-som-ska-ta-miljardmarknad-med-storm/
The article has been translated by Single Technologies into English.
The biotech company Single Technologies has developed a sort of a cube which can analyse 100 times more DNA at a 100 times lower price than the competitors. The market is worth USD 10 billion - but in a few years it could be ten times as large.
In an old industrial building close to Fridhemsplan in central Stockholm sits a group of smart women and men, ranging from engineers to cancer researchers, who are developing something that at first glance looks like a sprawling photocopier. But when Johan Strömqvist, CEO and co-founder of Single Technologies, lifts the lid something completely different is revealed. Underneath is a unique technology that identifies genes and proteins in 3D, an innovation that is expected to take the sequencing market, a method which is used to determine the sequence of the so-called bases in DNA and RNA, to a new level.
"At the heart of the machine is a 3D imaging system that is 800 times faster than what is currently on the market. We will be able to sequence a person's entire genome for 10 dollars, which is almost 100 times cheaper than today and could realize the dream of the technology being widely used in healthcare," says Johan Strömqvist.
"We are the only company in the world capable of sequencing in 3D. Unlike our competitors who sequence in 2D using a microfluidic chip, we can distribute DNA in a volume, a kind of cube into which we pack DNA. It can be compared to reading a book where all the pages are read in parallel, letter by letter. The cube is the key which allows us to do it so much faster and more cheaply," he says.
Sequencing is a cog in a chain that starts with a blood or tissue sample from a patient and ends with information that can provide the doctor with crucial information about everything from genetic diseases in a fetus to a very early detection of cancer. In addition to benefits for patients, it is also a very profitable cog. Today, the sequencing market is worth around USD 10 billion, and everything points to a substantial growth in the future.
"The areas of use we see today for sequencing are just the beginning. I was at JP Morgan in January, and they estimate that when the market expands and people start to be screened more routinely, it will be worth over $100 billion," says Johan Strömqvist.
“Illumina, which is currently dominating the market, has basically had a monopoly for 20 years. But now a central patent has expired for the method they use, which means that new players will enter the market. This will push the price down, but to a limited extent because it is not possible to pack more DNA on the microchips.”
What new uses do you see in the future?
“It's hard to say, but it could be synthetic biology, where you make synthetic DNA snippets, and put these into bacteria or organisms in order to produce a raw material, such as insulin. But it could also be crops where CRISPR technologies have been used to improve their properties and you need to see which changes you have made, or to store information in the long term in room-temperature DNA instead of in server halls which are major energy guzzlers.”
The plan for Single Technologies, which has a celebrity-dense list of owners including the business profile Carl-Henric Svanberg, is to start offering its services during the first quarter of 2025.
"The first step is really about making sure that our systems are robust before we start deploying them externally. In 2026, we will create an early access system with maybe five machines. Imagine Amazon's data centres, but instead there will be Single centres around the world, in collaboration with Karolinska, Harvard or whoever it may be.
“Using our system externally does not necessarily mean selling the instrument,” Johan Strömqvist clarifies. “In today's market, the bulk of revenues comes from the use of the machine. Therefore, the business model will be a kind of ‘pay per use’.”