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Howard Hughes Medical Institute Purchases Five PacBio Sequencers for Host Institutions


By Julia Karow

This article was originally published June 25.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has purchased five sequencers from Pacific Biosciences, which it will place at several host institutions for use by its own investigators and others, In Sequence has learned.

The instruments will be among the first 20 or so commercial sequencers shipped by PacBio and are expected to be delivered after mid-November, according to Phil Pearlman, senior scientific officer and director of research facilities at HHMI.

HHMI made the decision to purchase the units earlier this year, Pearlman told In Sequence, after two technology presentations by PacBio last fall and discussions with its investigators.

The instruments will be owned by HHMI and installed at several host institutions in order to “serve the relevant sequencing needs of all our investigators,” Pearlman said. Several research institutions are currently competing for the instrument placements, and HHMI expects to select the host institutions in August.

The hosts will operate their instruments on behalf of “a defined subset” of HHMI researchers working at the same or nearby institutions. Forty percent of the sequencing capacity will be reserved for non-HHMI researchers at each host institution.

“We regularly try to identify emerging technologies — including new sequencers — that may have promise for our researchers,” Pearlman said.

HHMI investigators use “all manner of cutting-edge technology in their research,” both developed on their own and adopted from outside, and it is thus not unusual for the institute to bring in new research technology at such an early stage. In the past, the institute has even purchased beta-stage instruments, he said.

HHMI has had good experiences with other next-generation sequencing technologies. “The institute owns a significant number of second-generation sequencers, and they have had an enormous impact on research in recent years,” Pearlman said.

“We chose a somewhat unusual approach in developing this program, but the Institute has purchased many different kinds of cutting-edge instruments over the years,” he said.

Pacific Biosciences declined to comment on the purchase.