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New Sequencer Promises $1000 Genome

Andrew S. Wiecek

Will Ion Torrent’s new semiconductor sequencer be the first to usher in the era of the $1000 genome?

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Life Technologies has announced a new Ion Torrent DNA sequencing platform and chips that is designed to sequence a human genome for $1000 in a matter of hours.

Based on the same semiconductor technique as the company’s Personal Genome Machine (PGM) sequencer, the Ion Torrent Proton instrument will use two new sequencing chips with expanded throughput. The Proton I chip with 165 million sensors is designed for exome sequencing applications, while the Proton II chip with 660 million sensors is designed for whole-genome sequencing applications.

Life Technologies has announced a new Ion Torrent DNA sequencing platform and chips that is designed to sequence a human genome for $1000 in a matter of hours. Source: Life Technologies

“What we’ve done here is harnessed 10 years of Moore’s law compared to the Ion PGM series chip,” said Andy Felton, Ion Torrent’s senior director for product marketing. “It’s enabled us to do the next 100x scaling of the technologies.”

Although the new sequencer will use the same semiconductor technology and the same chemistry as the previous PGM sequencer, the electronics that handle the data output of the chips had to be improved to process the higher throughput of the Proton series. The $1000 estimated price per genome includes the consumables needed for template preparation, amplification, and sequencing as well as the cost of the chips.

Because the new system uses the same chemistry as the company’s previous sequencers, the accuracy and read-length capabilities of the new system are expected to be similar as well. Furthermore, the Proton system will be able to perform applications that have been developed such as paired-end sequencing.

“The beauty of semiconductors is that as you go forward in time, the chips get faster and allow us to retain the same sensitivity. We get the same signal level as we get in the PGM chips, but we can run them out much faster, that allows us to get a genome in hours not weeks,” said Felton.

In addition, the company introduced the Proton OneTouch system for automated template preparation and the stand-alone Ion Proton Torrent Server for data processing, which includes base-calling, alignment, and variant analysis.

The price of the new instrument will be $149,000, while the price of the accompanying instruments including the stand-alone server will be an additional estimated price of $95,000.

“This will make analysis much more efficient because you’ll get data every day instead of a huge data deluge every couple of weeks,” said Felton. “That will allow you to handle your pipeline much more efficiently.”

An early-access program has been announced that will provide Proton sequencers and chips before commercial release later this year to three customers: Chad Nusbaum at the Broad Institute, Richard Gibbs at Baylor College of Medicine, and Richard Lipton at Yale School of Medicine. Commercial launch of the sequencer and Proton I chips is scheduled for mid-year, followed by the launch of Proton II chips six months later.

“When you can delivery exsomes in a couple of hours—that really changes the way you can do biology,” said Felton.

Keywords:  genomics sequencing $1000