Intelligent Bio-Systems is planning a fourth-quarter shipping date for the Mini-20, a sequencing-by-synthesis system that allows users to run up to 20 samples at a time for targeted sequencing applications.
The system's flow cells are arranged in a carousel that cycles through various fluidic stations to perform all sequencing steps — reagent loading, washing, imaging, and so on — in parallel. Users have random access to the flow cells so that they don't have to wait for a run to finish before adding another sample.
Steven Gordon, founder and CEO of IBS, described the system at the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities annual conference last week in Orlando, Fla. He said that the company plans to kick off an early-access program for the system next month.
The list price for the Mini-20 is $120,000 and the reagent cost for a single flow cell is $150. Each 10-microliter flow cell can generate 20 million reads for a total of 4 gigabases. The total throughput for the instrument is 400 million reads and 80 gigabases if all 20 flow cells are in use. A maximum of 10 samples can be sequenced in a single day.
Gordon said the system is intended for core labs and clinical labs that often need to run multiple samples but don't want to wait to batch them in order to justify a full run on a high-throughput system.
The Mini-20 "excels when running multiple samples," he said, because it can sequence "10 samples in the same time as one sample on other systems" and also gives users the flexibility of adding a new sample while a sequencing run is underway.
He added that the Mini-20 was designed to be user-friendly. A user adds a new flow cell and selects the type of sequencing run to perform, and the system says how much reagent to add. It can also run unattended for overnight runs, he said.
Azco Biotech will distribute and service the Mini-20 and is currently developing sample prep kits for it. J Adams, president of Azco, said that the sample prep will likely run around $50 per library but noted that the price isn't finalized "because we haven't scaled the kits down for small samples yet." He said the company is forecasting a total per-sample reagent cost of under $200.
Gordon said that sample prep takes about six to eight hours.
Reads are between 35 and 55 bases, but the company is developing a primer-walking strategy that should enable reads that "rival Sanger lengths," Gordon said.
Specifically, once the SBS cycle "runs out of steam," the initial template is recovered and used to re-initiate a second round of sequencing downstream of the initial site. Gordon said that it is possible to perform "several rounds" of primer walking in order to extend the read length to up to 300 bases, and 600 bases for paired-end reads.
In terms of accuracy, the system has a Phred quality score of 35 at 50 base pairs, but that "falls off as the read length gets longer," Gordon said.
The IBS technology is based on four-color reversible terminator sequencing chemistry that the company exclusively licensed from inventor Jingyue Ju and Columbia University in 2006.
In partnership with Azco and Danaher Motion's Dover business, IBS last year launched a genome-scale version of the technology called the Max-Seq that can generate up to 100 gigabases of data per run (IS 8/9/2011). That system was originally called the PinPoint and the smaller-scale instrument the PinPoint Mini, but the company rebranded both instruments in an effort to better reflect their intended applications, Azco's Adams said.
IBS said last year that it planned to price the Mini at $85,000, but Gordon told In Sequence that it had not secured Azco as a distributor for the system at the time and was not accounting for the additional costs of the distribution relationship.