By Julia Karow
Life Technologies has booked 60 orders for the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine since the system was launched last month, and has started shipping the first instruments to customers, a company executive said this week.
The company this week also announced a new chip for the PGM that will increase the system's output from about 10 megabases to 100 megabases per run. The Ion 316 Semiconductor Sequencing Chip, which replaces the Ion 314, will be available to early-access customers in the first quarter.
The PGM's performance increase just a few months after its launch "gives you a foreshadowing of the rate of innovation, the rate of expansion that we can take this fairly low-cost machine — about $50,000 — and make it have the same power as some of these big, giant machines that are going into these core labs around the world," said Life Technologies CEO Greg Lucier during a presentation at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week.
In his presentation, which was webcast, he likened Ion Torrent's sequencing technology to small digital cameras that replaced film cameras, and predicted that the technology will supplant the "yesterday technology" of microarrays for genetic analyses.
"Early microarrays were basically analog; they were layer devices; they gave comparative results, not digital results," he said. "Now we have moved into the sequencing age, but [with] larger, more expensive technologies, but our whole goal is to move us now to chip-based sequencing, which is the Ion Torrent technology, which we think will allow this technology to move into the hands of many, many more people who are trying to do genetic engineering, and do it in a very low-cost, fast way."
Life Tech this week also launched a bench-top device for automated library construction called Library Builder System, for use with both the 5500 SOLiD Series and the Ion Torrent PGM, and a new software platform called the LifeScope Genomic Analysis Software for read mapping and detection of genomic variation.
Both the $50,000 Library Builder System and the software, which will cost $10,000 for five licenses, will be available this quarter. The software will initially support Life Tech's own platforms, and "leading industry platforms" later this year (see New Products).