Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Ontera spins out Nooma Bio, Inc.


August 11, 2020 — Santa Cruz, CA

New startup poised to disrupt long-read genomics and epigenetics by productizing dual-nanopore technology

Ontera, Inc., the leader in silicon-based nanopore sensing and diagnostics, is taking another step toward realizing its mission of providing better biological information for a healthier planet; this time, by spinning out a new company, Nooma Bio, Inc. (Nooma). The spin out was launched with seed financing from Khosla Ventures to accelerate development and productization of the patented dual-nanopore technology for mapping genomic and epigenetic features on DNA, while Ontera will remain focused on bringing single silicon-nanopore technology for in-field precision diagnostics. Murielle Thinard McLane and William Dunbar will be leading Nooma Bio as CEO and CTO, respectively, while also retaining their roles at Ontera.

Why two nanopores? “Controlling DNA’s motion during nanopore sensing is essential when you want to accurately detect and locate multiple features or sequence a DNA molecule,” said Dr. Dunbar. The two pore technology will be focused on directly detecting nucleosomes, and methylated bases and histones that are chemically tagged. The method will be applied to single molecules of high molecular weight DNA, while eliminating the conversion chemistries required by next generation sequencing. Initial indications are that direct mapping of epigenetic features would be valuable as a tool to accelerate epigenetic biomarker discovery for cancers such as AML / CML.

Dr. Christopher Mason, Associate Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, said “Improving accuracy and opening up single-molecule, epigenetic measurements can lead to dramatically improved understanding of basic biological functions and novel clinical applications. My group has published extensively on the need for technology just like this and how it can reveal new biology.”

Dr. Winston Timp, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, “I think the application of dual-nanopore technology to chart epigenetic regions, such as cytosine methylation density, would be very valuable to the research community, and could lead to a technology platform to produce basic and translationally valuable data. This is an ambitious goal, but a tractable one, leveraging epigenetic data in a rapid sample-to-answer device. Mapping long reads in the 20-200kb range, while profiling long repetitive areas and longer patterns of the epigenome (i.e. enhancer/promoter interactions) on the same long molecule, would be very valuable.”

About Nooma Bio
Nooma’s mission is to decode the dynamic elements of life, one molecule at a time, to advance the health and well being of humanity. Nooma’s technology uses two nanopores to control and map genomic and epigenetic features on single molecules of high molecular weight DNA. Contact:

About Ontera
Ontera was founded with the idea that better information is needed to enhance human and environmental health in a sustainable way. The company aims to revolutionize diagnostics with its single-molecule detection platforms based on proprietary biochemistry and silicon nanopore chip-based sensors. The platforms will bring next-generation molecular diagnostics closer to the point of need, anywhere on earth. For more information, visit

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