January 12, 2012
Two US Companies Releasing ‘One-Day’ Genome Machines
Two different U.S. companies have announced plans to release equipment that can sequence an individual's genome in a single day, with both machines being revealed to the public within hours of each other on Tuesday.
The first to announce their genome-sequencing machine was Ion Torrent, a Connecticut-based division of the Life Technologies Corporation, according to Reuters and Associated Press (AP) reports.The company, which claims that its Ion Proton Sequencer is 1,000 times more powerful than existing DNA decoding technology, is currently taking orders for the tabletop machine (which is said to be about the same size as a printer) and expects it to be delivered in approximately a year.
Reuters' Sharon Begley reports that the device will cost between $99,000 to $149,000 dollars, "making it affordable for large medical practices or clinics." In comparison, existing devices cost up to three-quarters of a million dollars, the wire service noted.
Less than 24 hours later, the AP reported that a second firm San Diego-based Illumina also announced a new piece of equipment that, like the Ion Proton Sequencer, has the potential to decode an entire genome in about one day.
While the AP said that the company's statement did not make reference to a price for the unit, Illumina Chief Executive Jay Flately had told Matthew Herper of Forbes that the machine would cost $740,000.
While costing far more than its competitor, Herper suggests that it will be a higher-quality genome sequencer, noting that it "will provide scientists with exactly the kind of data that researchers have come to expect." He claims that Illumina machines are currently responsible for nine out of every 10 DNA base pairs that are sequenced by researchers.
According to Begley, newborns may be the ones to benefit most from the new technology. She says that every U.S. state currently requires them to be screened for a minimum of 29 genetic diseases.
Which of the two machines will emerge victorious, though? Herper posed the question to Chad Nusbaum, the co-director of the Genome Sequencing and Analysis Program at the Broad Institute, who has already used the Ion Torrent system and told Forbes that he expected the lower price point to give it the edge.
"The speed is good," Nusbaum said, speaking of the Illumina device, "but cost is going to be a blocker“¦ We´re in a world where you can buy a machine for a lot less. Now machines are getting cheap again, and I think that is what the world is going to expect. Otherwise it costs you too much to get in the game."
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