A semiconductor DNA sequencer

July 22, 2011 | Source: Technology Review
Ion Torrent

Ion Torrent’s semiconductor chip can sequence samples of DNA in just a few hours (credit: Ion Torrent)

Startup Ion Torrent has launched its new semiconductor-based sequencing machine — at $50,000, a comparatively inexpensive device.

Most advanced sequencing technologies rely on fluorescently tagged molecules and a microscope to sequence DNA. At the heart of Ion Torrent’s machine are sequencing chips that detect DNA sequences electronically.

This approach removes the need for expensive lasers and cameras. The chips are made in the same semiconductor fabs as computer microprocessors.

Ion Torrent’s chip has improved tenfold over six months, a rapid advance that Jonathan Rothberg, Ion Torrent’s founder, attributes to “accumulated Moore’s law.” Ion Torrent has also sequenced the full genome of Intel cofounder Gordon E. Moore.