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Ion Torrent Unveils New $50K Electronic Sequencer

By Julia Karow

MARCO ISLAND, FL (GenomeWeb News) – Ion Torrent Systems this weekend unveiled an electronic sequencer that reads DNA on a semiconductor chip by measuring the release of protons as nucleotides get incorporated by DNA polymerase.

The instrument will cost $50,000 and generate "hundreds of millions of bases" per run at high accuracy, with a read length of several hundred bases and a cost per run of $500, according to Jonathan Rothberg, the company's co-founder and CEO.

Speaking in front of a packed audience at the end of the last session of the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference here, Rothberg said that the company, which has been operating quietly over the last few years, plans to sell tens of thousands of the instruments to laboratories around the world.

At the heart of the desktop-size sequencer is a 9 by 9 millimeter semiconductor chip, consisting of a layer of 3.5-micrometer wells, a charge-sensitive layer underneath, and 1.55 million separate electronic sensors below. DNA is synthesized on the chip at a speed of four seconds per base.

Currently, the platform provides high-quality reads of 100 to 200 bases, but Rothberg said there is "no reason" why it should not be able to generate accurate 500-base reads in the future.

Rothberg did not provide a timeline for the commercial release of the instrument. However, he listed the Broad Institute and the Stanford Genome Technology Center as collaborators.

A more detailed version of this article can be found on the website of GenomeWeb Daily News' sister publication In Sequence.

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