Squeal! That’s not exactly the kind of feedback Applied Biosystems president Michael Hunkapiller had in mind when he led off the company’s official launch of its next-generation high-throughput DNA sequencer at the Museum of Science in Boston. “Sequencers are more efficient than audiovisual technology, sometimes,” quipped Hunkapiller.
About 100 customers and collaborators attended the event introducing the 3730. After Hunkapiller’s remarks, Eric Lander, director of the Whitehead Institute Center of Genome Research, gave his usual spiel. Other speakers included Baylor’s Richard Gibbs, WashU’s Elaine Mardis, and John Attwood, a Sanger Centre programmer who discussed his experience integrating the new instrument’s software into the current setup.
So what’s new in the 3730? First, there’s the price — it lists at $350,000. But according to ABI, thanks to the drastic reduction in reagent use, an upgrade will pay for itself in less than two years. While 100 runs on the 3700 devour about 800 ml, for example, the new instrument requires just 25 ml. The 3730 also uses 40 times less buffer and produces less than two percent of the waste of the 3700, ABI says.
With the new instrument, ABI has also addressed the notorious downtime issues of the 3700. “They have a lot of moving parts. There’s a robot to move the samples back and forth. The sheath flow requires syringe movement to provide polymer,” Mardis says of the 3700. “What we found is that there’s a lot of required maintenance to keep those going.” The 3730, on the other hand, has no sheath flow. And there is just one syringe, for polymerase injection. And ABI must be confident that the new design will mean less maintenance. “The service fees are now $6,000 or $7,000 less a year,” Mardis says.
— Aaron J. Sender