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Life Tech Launches New Sequencing Chemistry, Avalanche Sample Prep via Technology Access Program

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Life Technologies' Ion Torrent has launched a program dubbed Technology Access through which it plans to make available products prior to their full commercial launch. Its first two products, which it announced this week, are its Avalanche system for sample prep based on isothermal amplification and a sequencing reagent kit that reduces its indel error rate.

Andy Felton, senior director of product marketing at Life Tech's Ion Torrent, told In Sequence that the goal of the Technology Access program is to get "products out before a full commercial launch." Products available through the site will be made and shipped on a custom order basis, he said. The products will be priced the same as the eventual commercial versions, but will not have performance specification guarantees.

Life Tech will launch a sequencing kit that has a new enzyme that reduces the indel error rate by up to 90 percent, Felton said. The kits will be available in November and will commercially launch in July 2014.

The company has tested the kit with a new DNA polymerase it calls Hi-Q using 400-base reads to sequence microbial genomes and found that the insertion and deletion errors were reduced by 90 percent and that the read quality stayed above Q30 across the entire 400-base read.

Felton said that indel errors have been cut down because the enzyme is better able to "handle the secondary structures in the sequencing fragment." There are "some regions the current enzyme finds difficult to get through," he said, that the new enzyme does not struggle with, which helps reduce the systematic error profile.

Thus far, the company has tested the new enzyme on microbial 400-base sequencing, but Felton said it would translate to other applications as well. "The testing and validation showed that it was promising, so we didn't want to wait [to launch]," he said.

Dag Harmsen, a professor at the University of Münster, told IS that he applied an error-analysis method he developed in his lab to an Escherichia coli dataset generated by Life Tech, and said that there appeared to be a "dramatic consensus error reduction."

For instance, Harmsen cited a recent Nature Biotechnology letter in which he found over 500 indels after sequencing an E. coli strain using 400-base reads on the PGM. The E. coli dataset generated by Life Tech had 20 to 30 indel errors, he said.

Life Tech is also launching its emulsion PCR-free Avalanche sample prep through the Technology Access program in November. The Avalanche system is based on isothermal amplification, which occurs in a single tube in around 30 minutes, rather than em-PCR, and the entire process takes less than two hours.

At this year's Advances in Genome Biology and Technology meeting in Marco Island, Fla., Felton said that the firm was working on different versions of Avalanche, including one in which library construction could be done directly on the Proton chip and one that uses a bead configuration (IS 2/26/2013). Felton said that the company is launching the bead-based version of Avalanche, and a full commercial launch is anticipated in early 2014.

Life Tech had initially planned to launch Avalanche by the end of this year. "We've developed the chemistry, but haven't completed the testing," said Felton. "But we wanted to get the advance out as quickly as possible."

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