Here at Genome Technology, we know a thing or two about outsourcing. Working at a startup — I know that many of you can relate — means that especially early on, it’s simply easier to send things out than to hire someone to start up a process in-house. We have an IT guru who comes to our office whenever we page him with our latest emergency (Our router is making strange noises! The printer keeps spitting out smiley faces!). We’ve hired freelancers to take care of some of the writing. A design team in Princeton, NJ, gives our magazine the look you recognize. And, much as we’d love to crank out each issue by hand on our own press, we ship the magazine out each month to a printer in Pennsylvania.
As in any industry, there are some processes that are natural to outsource, and some that work better in-house. The decision for each means sorting out expenses, time investment, need for infrastructure, and staffing.
So when the idea came along to write a story about outsourcing for life scientists, we thought it was a terrific opportunity. Rather than do a generic feature about it, though, we homed in on a couple of technologies — sequencing and microarrays — that seem to be changing the fastest from traditionally in-house to increasingly outsourced.
I took advantage of last month’s Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference down in Marco Island, Fla., to talk to scientists about the trend to ship out sequencing work. (And, admittedly, to escape the New York winter.) Chad Nusbaum, co-director of genome sequencing and analysis at the Broad Institute, told me, “Sequencing in and of itself isn’t that important anymore. We’re a step away from that.” Quite frankly, he was thrilled about it. After years of hard work improving the engineering process behind sequencing, Nusbaum said, “I’m a scientist again.”
That’s a growing sentiment in the community as people feel less protective of their sequence data, and therefore less attached to their own sequencer. As you’ll read in the article, sequencing has become such a routine procedure that more and more people feel comfortable sending samples or plates to a vendor and using the free time to do more interesting integrated biology work. As vendors’ prices drop precipitously, even core labs are getting less business — some universities are outsourcing their sequencing cores altogether. Visionaries in the field contend that microarrays are the next technology that you’ll outsource in a couple of years, so you’ll find an article on the players in that market as well.
As always, we’re dedicated to giving you not just the news, but news you can use. The cover story includes tips on deciding whether to outsource, how to choose a vendor, and IP issues to keep in mind. For good measure, we threw in a side article on a particular pharma-vendor relationship that illustrates how fruitful these collaborations can be when they go well.
Meanwhile, Senior Editor John MacNeil delved into the world of early access agreements. These technology-preview deals give labs a competitive edge — but as John discovered, it doesn’t have to be a privilege reserved for a handful of prestigious researchers. Check out his in-depth article to find out how your lab, however small or large, can work with vendors to try out technology before it’s available to everyone else. I think you’ll agree that it’s a useful primer for any scientist in this industry.
Finally, be sure to check out our Pattern Recognition page. As you may know, our parent company GenomeWeb has been surveying readers in the sector and writing market research reports for various technologies. We think the data we receive is so valuable that in the future we’ll be using that page to give you exclusive, detailed information on a wide range of subjects, from arrays to pharmacogenomics to systems biology. This month, find out what your peers think of the mass spec market and where it’s going.
Meredith W. Salisbury, Editor
What do you think of Genome Technology? Let me know how we’re doing by e-mailing me at [email protected] genomeweb.com or by calling me at 212.651.5635.