New benchtop sequencers shipping; sequence genome in under a day

September 14, 2012

Nanopores: direct, electronic analysis of single molecules (credit: Oxford Nanopore Technologies)

Life Technologies began shipments of its new Ion Proton benchtop sequencing instrument on Thursday, but the sequencing race is still on.

Illumina and Oxford Nanopore have also promised new machines by the end of the year, each capable of sequencing a human genome in less than a day, Nature News Blog reports.

The Ion Proton machine costs $150,000 and performs 4-hour sequencing runs using $1,000 disposable chips. A chip can sequence 60–80 million filtered DNA fragments, with lengths of up to 200 bases, enough to provide several-fold coverage on a human exome (the protein-coding genes). A second-generation chip capable of sequencing a full human genome is scheduled to be released next year.

The machines from each companies read DNA bases in different ways. Illumina reads different colors of light depending on whether A,C,T, or G is incorporated. Life Technologies’ Ion Proton detects tiny changes in pH as different bases are added, and Oxford Nanopore detects disruption in an electrical current as a single DNA molecule slides through a nano-sized hole.

Competition in the clinical setting is set to be fierce. Both Life and Illumina have released products for use with clinical samples, and plan to file for FDA approval of their instruments next year.