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RIKEN Omics Science Center to Purchase Four Helicos Sequencers

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By Julia Karow

Helicos BioSciences said this week that the RIKEN Yokohama Institute Omics Science Center in Japan will purchase four Helicos Genetic Analysis systems, marking the company's first sale of several instruments to a large genome center.

Three of the sequencers are expected to be shipped to OSC this month, while the fourth will remain at Helicos for scientific collaborative work between the two that began last November.

The shipments will bring the number of Helicos single-molecule sequencers installed outside the company to nine. Last week, the company clarified that it currently has six instruments operating outside its premises (see other article in this issue).

OSC said in April that it had received $17 million in new grant funding from the Japanese government to update and expand its DNA sequencing infrastructure and to become the country's main national sequencing center. It will participate in the Cell Innovation Project, which aims to study aspects of cellular functions using next-generation sequencing.

At the time, the center was equipped with one Roche/454 Genome Sequencer FLX, two Illumina Genome Analyzer II instruments, and two Applied Biosystems SOLiD 3 sequencers, in addition to several Sanger sequencers, and was planning to add several types of instruments, including single-molecule sequencers (see In Sequence 4/28/2009).

Under their research collaboration, OSC and Helicos are exploring new methods to study the transcriptome, ultimately at the single-cell level.

"The single-molecule sequencing platform developed by Helicos will help accelerate ongoing progress in transcriptomics analysis at RIKEN's OSC," said OSC Director Yoshihide Hayashizaki in a statement from Helicos. "The Helicos system offers us the ability to make unbiased measurements of nucleic acids without amplification, to utilize very low starting amounts of nucleic acid, and to generate over 800 million sequences per run, providing accurate and precise measurements. These benefits of single-molecule sequencing to quantitative expression profiling, including measuring the activity of gene regulatory regions, will greatly expand our range of experimental approaches so that we can reveal more of the unknown biology of the genome to the scientific community."

The deal with OSC was long in the making: Hayashizaki told In Sequence in May of 2008 that the center was interested in acquiring a Helicos system (see In Sequence 5/6/2008).

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