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Pacific Biosciences Partners with Japan's iLAC, RBI on Automated Sequencing Workflows

NEW YORK – Pacific Biosciences said on Monday that it has teamed up with partners in Japan to explore the use of a humanoid, robotic laboratory technician to automate sample preparation workflows for its Sequel II and IIe long-read sequencing systems.

Under the terms of the agreement with genome analysis company iLAC and the Robotic Biology Institute, both based in Japan, the partners will develop and validate automated, high-throughput workflows using RBI's LabDroid for iLAC's genomic services facility in Tsukuba, Japan. The workflows will support whole-genome sequencing, targeted sequencing, and RNA isoform sequencing.

Financial and other terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"As our footprint around the world grows, collaborations like this help us support the diverse needs of our customers," PacBio Chief Commercial Officer Peter Fromen said in a statement. "iLAC's track record of success in offering highly innovative, advanced, and cost-effective fully automated sequencing workflows make them an ideal partner for PacBio. We believe this collaboration, and the automated sequencing workflows that may result from it, could support broader adoption of long-read sequencing in the market."

"We believe we can optimize data consistency especially for larger projects, while reducing cost," Taka-Aki Sato, president and CEO of iLAC, added in a statement.

LabDroid is a humanoid robot designed for use in biological research and development.

The deal is indicative of swelling interest in automating sample and library preparation steps ahead of sequencing. PacBio partnered with lab automation firm Hamilton in January on high-molecular weight DNA extraction, and startups including Volta Labs and Miroculus are gearing toward automated platforms specifically for next-generation sequencing. In addition, Tecan released an automated platform for NGS library preparation earlier this month.