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A Great Time on Marco Island

On the last day of AGBT, attendees crowded the room for the session everyone had been waiting for: New Genomic Frontiers, highlighting sequencing advances from Pacific Biosciences, Complete Genomics, Life Technologies, Ion Torrent, and Helicos. At Genetic Interference, Luke Jostins gives a quick run-down of each and he notes that "we are starting to see a divergence in sequencing technologies … This means that the scientists themselves can more closely tailor their choice of tech to fit their situation."

Joe Beechem's talk about the third-gen platform from Life Tech probably generated the most buzz after the session; the combination of the VisiGen concept with quantum dots had attendees genuinely interested. "The most shocking thing about the technology is that in theory it can be used to generate reads of unlimited length," says Daniel MacArthur at Genetic Future.

Jonathan Rothberg, who gave the Ion Torrent presentation, wins the Daily Scan award for most theatrical — his talk was punctuated by narrated commercials on the technology as well as staff members carrying the instrument through the room for all to see. Pinning him down on details was difficult: Rothberg refused to answer a question about the instrument's sample prep requirements, but did note that libraries prepped for other next-gen systems could be used on the platform. Our sister publication In Sequence adds that the instrument will cost $50,000, among other details. Keith Robison also blogs about Ion Torrent here.

At its own workshop, Pacific Biosciences presented its new sequencing instrument, Pacbio RS. Stephen Turner said that the system could produce reads as long as 20,000 bases, though Daniel MacArthur adds that only a few reads will be that length. MassGenomics' Dan Koboldt blogs that he asked Turner whether PacBio's ability to detect "dark bases" had improved and he was told that there aren't any "dark bases," but there are missed bases. "Turner was almost comically evasive (as Daniel MacArthur put it) in stating how often they occur," Koboldt says.