April 30, 2006
TJ Rodgers Sees Demand For Nanopore DNA Sequencers

T.J. Rodgers, founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, says start-up companies looking to automate DNA sequencing are looking for semiconductor manufacturers which can build nanopore devices for DNA sequencing.

EET: A few colleges--Stanford, MIT, others--have created interdisciplinary programs to marry electrical engineering and biology. Do you see a coming together of those disciplines in the commercial space anytime soon?

Rodgers: I have two data points. In gene sequencing, once you understand the sequence of genes in an organism, with bioengineering you can go in and change one gene and modify the characteristic of a plant, as opposed to [just doing] a crude DNA swap where you put two plants together. For instance, you can [engineer] a grape that's more drought-tolerant than it was before but still makes great pinot noir.

[The technology needed] to understand the gene sequence--that's going to go to silicon. There are startups in Silicon Valley coming into our company saying they want us to build holes so small that one DNA molecule will fit in them. They want to watch it fluoresce and find out what it is. And they want millions of chips.

Advances in semiconductor technology are driving advances in biotechnology. Once DNA sequencing can be done on chips the cost will plummet orders of magnitude.

Parenthetically, Cypress's ownership of photovoltaics maker SunPower now provides Cypress with most of its market capitalization.

Cypress owns 85 percent of SunPower, which went public in November. It is valued near $2.5 billion, with its stock trading at $17.24. SunPower's capitalization is about $2.38 billion; since its offering, its stock has risen from $24.42 to a closing high of $44.07. This suggests that much of the value of Cypress these days comes from SunPower.

If Rodgers could find a way to build useful semiconductors for a Cypress-funded DNA sequencing start-up then he could repeat the tentative success of his SunPower investment.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 April 30 02:03 PM  Biotech Advance Rates


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