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LaserGen to Install Prototype Sequencers this Summer; Receives $150K US Army SBIR Grant for Portable Version


By Julia Karow

LaserGen said last month that it plans to install prototype sequencers at two genome centers this summer. The company also recently received a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the US Army Medical Research and Material Command to develop a portable version of its sequencer for pathogen detection in wounds of combat soldiers.

Over the last several years, LaserGen has been developing a cyclic reversible terminator chemistry, dubbed "Lightning Terminators." Last summer, the firm raised $5 million in a Series A financing round and teamed up with National Instruments to build a prototype sequencer (IS 7/19/2011 and IS 8/30/2011).

At the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference in Marco Island, Fla., last month, LaserGen CEO Michael Metzker said that the main advantages of the system is high data accuracy, coupled with fast incorporation and cleavage kinetics.

The company recently sequenced the E. coli genome on one of its breadboard instruments in a single run, achieving a raw base accuracy of 99.8 percent. It is currently analyzing the data, which it plans to submit for publication to a peer-reviewed journal in the near future.

The current instrument analyzes emulsion-PCR amplified DNA on a microfluidic flow cell and uses four-color imaging. It generates 25-base reads with a cycle time of about 30 minutes.

According to Metzker, who is also an associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, LaserGen is currently building three prototype instruments in collaboration with Lathrop Engineering, which it expects to be delivered in May. It plans to install two of these systems at genome centers for validation purposes this summer and to work on increasing the read length to 50 bases.

In parallel, Lathrop is also developing eight beta systems, to be delivered in late fall, of which LaserGen wants to install four at early-access customer sites before the end of the year. It also plans to increase the read length to 100 base pairs, while maintaining high data accuracy.

The planned price for the commercial instrument is $99,000, Metzker said, and each sequencing run is expected to cost about $1,000.

The recent SBIR award will support a feasibility study to show that the sequencing technology can identify microbial pathogens commonly found in wound infections in combat soldiers, according to the company.

The long-term goal of the project is to develop a fast and portable approach to identify pathogens in wounds in order to be able to select specific antibiotic treatments. Current practice is to use broad spectrum antibiotics, which have been linked to the emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in In Sequence? Contact the editor at jkarow [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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