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Ion Torrent Sequences Intel Co-Founder's Genome; New 318 Chip to Increase Output of PGM to 1 GB

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By Julia Karow

This article was originally published Feb. 23.

Ion Torrent has sequenced the genome of Intel co-founder Gordon Moore using its Personal Genome Machine platform, making Moore's the first human genome sequenced with "post-light" sequencing technology, Ion Torrent CEO Jonathan Rothberg said last week.

In addition, Life Technologies, which owns Ion Torrent, separately announced last week the impending debut of the Ion 318 chip, which is designed to increase the output of its Ion's Personal Genome Machine to up to a gigabase per run, and enable RNA sequencing applications.

During a talk at the Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference in San Francisco last week, Rothberg, who is also Ion Torrent's founder and chairman, said that coverage of Moore's genome was "more uniform" than that of human genomes sequenced on other next-generation sequencing platforms, and that the relatively long reads of the PGM helped to detect many rearrangements. He did not provide any technical details.

The new 318 chip is expected to produce between 4 and 8 million reads and will cost about $500, the same as the Ion 316, its predecessor. It will be available to early-access customers in September and will likely be launched commercially during the fourth quarter, according to Andy Felton, Ion Torrent's senior director for product marketing.

Along with the chip, Life Tech plans to launch RNA-sequencing kits and RNA-analysis software. Unlike the two previous chips, the 318 will have sufficient reads to enable applications like RNA-seq, miRNA-seq, and ChIP-seq, according to the company.

Breaking Moore's Law

Life Tech's announcement comes about a month after it introduced the Ion 316, which Felton said will go into early-access testing in April and will be commercially launched at the end of the second quarter (IS 1/11/2011).

It also comes a month after Illumina debuted MiSeq, a potential rival platform that promises to generate up to 1.5 gigabases per run and that, like the Ion 318, is expected to begin shipping in the third quarter (IS 1/18/2011).

By announcing the 318 now, Life Tech aims to demonstrate that it is serious about its promise of increasing the output of the PGM tenfold every six months. It is achieving this through a combination of more sensors per chip than earlier versions, better use of the available sensors, and increased read length.

"It's not that we are faster than Moore's Law," Rothberg said, referring to Gordon Moore's suggestion that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit will double every two years. It's that "we are using 40 years of accumulated Moore's law."

The current 314 chip, which has about 1.2 million accessible sensors, produces about 100,000 high-quality reads of 100 bases, or 10 megabases per run. By comparison, the impending 316 chip will have 6.1 million accessible sensors and will generate about a million 100-base reads, or 100 megabases per run.

The 318 chip, currently in R&D and "well along in its development," according to Felton, will have 11 million accessible sensors, generate between 4 million and 8 million reads, and yield 200-base reads by the end of the year. For 5 million reads, this would translate to an output of 1 gigabase per run.

The PGM's current 2-hour run time will increase with 200-base reads but will not double, Felton said.

Internally, Ion Torrent is already achieving read lengths "in excess of" 300 bases, according to the company, and read lengths are expected to climb to 400 bases by next year.

As of now, there is no scientific paper describing the fundamental technology of the Ion Torrent platform, but Felton said the company is "actively working" on one and expects it to be "out relatively soon."

It was not immediately clear whether he referred to a publication of Moore's genome.

— Bernadette Toner contributed to this article from the Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference in San Francisco.



Have topics you'd like to see covered in In Sequence? E-mail the editor at jkarow [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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