Longas launches and confirms new CEO

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Longas Technologies, a developer of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, has unveiled its Morphose technology and announced the appointment Nick McCooke as its CEO.

Mr McCooke built and led the team at Solexa that pioneered NGS prior to the company being acquired by Illumina.

Morphoseq is designed to dramatically improve the performance of industry-standard NGS platforms by increasing effective read lengths, with benefits in accuracy and cost efficiency.

It was developed in recent years by a team led by computational biologist Professor Aaron Darling, CSO at Longas.

Morphoseq converts short read sequencers into ‘virtual long read’ sequencers, enabling finished-quality genome assemblies with high accuracy, including resolution of difficult-to-assemble genomic regions. Longas has an extensive portfolio of international patent filings covering the Morphoseq technology.

Longas is a spin-out from the ithree institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), funded by Australia’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and investment from the company’s founders and directors.

In addition to Professor Aaron Darling, co-founders from UTS include Dr Catherine Burke and Professor Ian Charles, previously director of the ithree institute and now director of the Quadram Institute in the UK.

“The rise of high-throughput, low cost DNA sequencing has made genome sequencing routine and affordable, but has come at the cost of read length,” said Longas co-founder and CSO Professor Aaron Darling.

“It is very difficult for assembly methods to resolve genomic repeats that are longer than the read length. But long repeats are present at many of the most clinically informative parts of genomes, such as drug resistance genes in bacteria and the MHC locus in humans. The ability to accurately assemble and phase these into individual chromosomes for humans and microorganisms has important clinical and epidemiological applications."

Mr McCooke, who has been a non-executive director of the company since 2015, will lead commercialisation and industry partnering.

As founding CEO of Solexa, Mr McCooke took the company from spin-out to its NASDAQ listing in 2005. He led the development of a leading NGS technology, which became the basis of Illumina’s NGS product line. He is also a non-executive director of Evonetix and Bioventix. 

According to Dr Stephen Thompson, chairman of Longas and managing director at Brandon Capital, the venture capital firm that manages the MRCF, “Longas is an exciting opportunity that could help transform the research, epidemiology and clinical genomics fields. Its technology solves a key problem in NGS and promises to have an important impact within the NGS market, a market that is expected to grow from US$5.7 billion last year to US$20 billion by 2025.”

CEO Nick McCooke added, “As its speed and accuracy increases, and cost reduces, DNA sequencing is having a massive impact in a wide number of fields. There is an expanding opportunity for technologies that work in tandem with the main sequencing platforms, improving key aspects of their performance.”