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Agilent's Magnis Joins Set-and-Forget Movement in Library Prep Instruments


NEW YORK – Agilent Technologies is launching a set-and-forget automated library preparation instrument for labs getting started with targeted next-generation sequencing. The firm will also be offering a CE-IVD-marked clinical version that will be available in Europe.

If Agilent's SureSelect NGS reagent kits are analogous to disposable coffee pods, then Magnis is their "Keurig" machine, company executives suggested. 

"Magnis was created to enable any lab to harness the power of NGS," Kevin Corcoran, Agilent VP and general manager for biomolecular analysis, said in an email. "In execution, you will often find that simplicity means reducing the many choices and customizations to ensure seamless operation. Some relatable examples include coffee pods, printer cartridges, and electric toothbrush heads; all of these have made it easier for consumers to do the things they want to do. In the same way, Magnis is designed and optimized for use with Agilent reagents and protocols."

But what the system may lack in customizability, it makes up for in other areas. "The testers who have used Magnis are delighted by the consistency and ease of use," Corcoran said. "They also appreciate what you could call walk-away ability: testers ended their day in the lab by starting a Magnis run and came back the next morning with finished libraries to start the next steps of the sequencing workflow."

Magnis can run eight samples at a time and reduces hands-on time from two hours with a manual protocol to five minutes. Agilent declined to disclose the instrument's list price.

First announced in February, the Magnis NGS Prep system has been making appearances at Agilent's conference exhibit hall booths in recent weeks, including at last month's American Society of Human Genetics meeting in Houston and this week's Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) meeting in Baltimore. Agilent is taking orders now and will ship the first Magnis instruments in December, the firm said. In Europe, Agilent will also offer a CE-IVD-marked MagnisDx. Agilent must still complete and submit the CE-IVD technical file, but said it plans to ship MagnisDx in December as well.

Magnis joins several solutions for automated NGS library prep, including those already offered by Agilent, such as the Bravo liquid handling platform. The last several years have seen entrants to the automated library prep market come from adjacent fields, with set-and-forget functionality as an emerging theme. 

In April, for example, San Francisco-based Miroculus began commercializing its automated NGS library prep technology, which offers PCR-free prep for whole-genome sequencing, as opposed to Agilent's targeted SureSelect sequencing. Like Magnis, Miroculus' platform offers "walk-away" operability and, according to a company poster at the 2019 Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference, outperformed similar libraries made via the Broad Institute's automated plate-based methods. 

Also, a year ago, Switzerland's Tecan bought San Carlos, California-based NuGen Technologies and in the process acquired the Celero DNA-seq library preparation system for Illumina's sequencing platform.

And last week, China's MGI Tech revealed its $6,000 DNBelab D series digital biology lab for automated sample preparation, including library prep, along with the DNBSeq E series sequencer, a new instrument designed to be affordable and easy to use.

Magnis was both a response to customer requests and a strategic development for its NGS product line, Corcoran said. Agilent identified library prep as a "major customer pain point" and Magnis is a "deliberate effort" to ease it. "Greater ease-of-use is always one of Agilent’s design goals, and one element of this is workflow simplicity," he said. 

From Agilent's viewpoint, it probably doesn't hurt that so far, Magnis is only compatible with the firm's SureSelect NGS kits, but Corcoran said the firm is "open to partnerships with other vendors to expand the system's capabilities."

So far, Agilent has tested Magnis in an early-access program that includes customer sites with tests for genetics and cancer applications. At an Agilent-sponsored workshop at AMP this week, Antonio Marchetti, a lung cancer researcher at Italy's D'Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara, said in a prerecorded video that he had used Magnis with the SureSelect Cancer All-In-One Lung assay.

Marchetti's lab only compared Magnis to manual prep, not another automated method, Their results, presented by an Agilent employee during the AMP workshop, suggested the system was robust. In one test of depth of coverage, the samples prepared with Magnis had an average of 96 percent of target regions covered with more than 100 reads, with many samples showing over 99 percent target coverage. Marchetti added that the ability to automate protocols would be important to implementing liquid biopsy testing.

Magnis also provides Agilent a way into clinical NGS labs, where run-to-run reproducibility is extremely valuable. Though the company plans to ship MagnisDx in Europe in December, it will limit the device's availability there for the time being. Corcoran said the firm is only filing for clinical regulatory approval in Europe at this time.

"At present, the Magnis solution does not include in vitro diagnostic assays," Corcoran added, however, "Agilent plans to develop IVD applications where Magnis will be a part of the workflow, enabling labs to have push-button IVD solutions."

John Gilmore contributed reporting to this article.