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ABI Breaks Silence; New Sequencing Tech in Works


Applied Biosystems President Cathy Burzik acknowledged in late September that the company is working on next-generation DNA sequencing technologies, but said the company is not ready to provide details.

ABI has “a number of approaches under development,” she said during a Q&A session following her presentation at the UBS Global Life Sciences Conference, held in New York. Burzik said a “cluster approach” was one possibility for development, but she declined to provide further details, saying that the firm is working on patent filings.

Company officials have been asked frequently over the past year about whether ABI is developing any technologies that would eventually replace its capillary electrophoresis sequencing instruments. Industry insiders are also keen to learn whether ABI plans to partner with or acquire one of the many firms working on alternative sequencing technologies. Until now, ABI had declined to answer such questions.

At the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco in April, Burzik said that the firm had identified 35 companies that were developing alternative approaches such as single-molecule sequencing and DNA clustering. 454 Life Sciences, Agencourt Bioscience, Solexa, and Helicos BioSciences have the most advanced of these new technologies, with instruments either placed or soon to be placed at major research institutions. However, these newer technologies are still several years away from delivering on the promise of the $1,000 genome.

Burzik reiterated this fall ABI’s belief that the newer technologies are not going to make an impact during the next couple of years, and the firm does not see an end to the dominance of capillary electrophoresis in the DNA sequencing market. “We’re very committed to sequencing,” she said, noting that the firm has more than 12,000 capillary electrophoresis instruments installed worldwide.

— Edward Winnick



US Patent 6,942,971. Apparatus for analysis of a nucleic acid amplification reaction. Inventors: William McMillan, Lee Christel, David Borkholder, Steven Young. Assignee: Cepheid. Issued: September 13, 2005.

This patent covers “an apparatus for determining a threshold value … in a nucleic acid amplification reaction [comprising] a detection mechanism for measuring, at a plurality of different times during the amplification reaction, at least one signal whose intensity is related to the quantity of a nucleic acid sequence being amplified in the reaction.”


US Patent 6,928,368. Gene mining system and method. Inventors: Lee Bulla, Jr., Mehmet Candas. Assignee: The Board Regents, The University of Texas System. Issued: August 9, 2005.

This patent covers technology that selects a gene sequence associated with a selected phenotype and compares it to cataloged gene sequences to extract any cataloged sequences that contain a portion of the gene sequence. “The selected gene sequence is aligned to each portion of the extracted gene sequence and the extracted gene sequences are prioritized based on the alignment of the selected gene sequence,” and primers are designed to target that sequence.


In conjunction with the release of the latest version of its sequence analysis software, Invitrogen has created a Vector NTI Open Access policy and the online Vector NTI User Community. The policy will enable researchers in not-for-profit laboratories to apply for free, annual, and renewable licenses of Vector NTI.


Scientists sequenced the Antarctic-dwelling bacterium Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis TAC125, recently completing the two-chromosome genome that has nearly 3,500 protein-coding genes. The researchers include scientists from the Pasteur Institute, CNRS, Genoscope, and the University of Hong Kong, among other institutes.


VisiGen, a contender in the $1,000 genome race, recently won a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from NIGMS to develop a new method to label DNA, RNA, and proteins.


The UK’s Geneservice and the German Resource Center for Genome Research signed an agreement to distribute the Mouse Genome Encyclopedia DNABook created by RIKEN. The DNABook is a library of 60,770 full-length mouse cDNA clones that have been manually curated by the international Functional Annotation of Mouse consortium and then spotted onto paper and bound in a book. The clones are recoverable through PCR.


The Influenza Genome Sequencing Project completed the sequencing of 209 varieties of influenza, providing a view on how the virus evolves.




Number of new 3730xl ABI sequencers purchased this summer by the Broad Institute, bringing its total of these instruments to 126


Number of 454 Life Sciences sequencing instruments at the Broad Institute

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