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Professor is finalist for European Inventor of the Year


Published Apr 15, 2013

Pyrosequencing pioneer Pål Nyrén, a professor of Biotechnology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, has been nominated for the 2013 European Inventor of the Year Award by the European Patent Office announced.

KTH Biochemistry Professor Pål Nyrén

Announcing the 15 finalists this week, the EPO said Nyrén’s method of sequencing DNA strands has made genetic research more efficient, affordable and widespread … “and is giving researchers new avenues for pursuing personalised treatments and cures for life-threatening diseases such as cancer.”

The award is presented annually to outstanding inventors in five categories. For the first time, the public is invited to cast their vote to select the winner of the Popular Prize from among the 15 finalists. The 2013 winners in all categories will be announced at a ceremony in Amsterdam on 28 May in the presence of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands.

One of the most common methods of DNA sequencing today, pyrosequencing is named for the ‘fiery’ luminescence that it produces. As the DNA is sequenced, a chemical reaction produces light signals that are captured by sensitive cameras, which help determine the sequence of bases in the DNA.

Pyrosequencing was the first and only alternative to the Sanger method for de novo DNA sequencing. But unlike the Sanger method, pyrosequencing does not expose scientists to radioactive material and is much easier and faster.

Nyrén says the idea came to him during his post-doctoral work in Cambridge, England in the mid-1980s with future Nobel laureate Sir John Walker. “Sequencing was an arduous business at the time, requiring weeks of practice to learn the procedure,” he says. “I worked extensively with modification and simplification of a variety of methods, as well as with the development of new procedures, so it was natural for me to look for ways to improve methods that I found cumbersome and labour intensive.”

He says the idea occurred to him while riding his bicycle home from the lab one rainy night in 1986. “I had difficulty sleeping that night and was eager to go home to Sweden to test my new idea,” he says. “What I could not expect that day was that 10 years would pass before the method was fully developed.”

The technique was commercialized through the founding in 1997 of Pyrosequencing AB, which later became Biotage.

David Callahan