How Small Can Next Generation Sequencing Devices Get?
Scarcely any biotech blog and bulletin is not reporting about Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinIon & GridIon.
Truly, the specs of the new instruments sound fantastic: read length up to 100 kbp, raw read error rate ~1%, no sample preparation necessary (at least with blood samples), RNA can be sequenced directly, costs per base comparable to competitors, only 900$ for the MinIon device and data production in the range of 20-400 bases / second / pore (GenomeWeb).
And it goes without saying that these new instruments cause a lot of fuss in the Next Generation Community: shares from competitors are down up to 6 percent, and every one discusses fictive scenarios that might now be possible.
I am also really excited about this news and it still sound unbelievable that Next Gen Sequencing devices can be so small. But I also have my doubts and agree with the following statements:
“… If only 75% of what they claimed is true it would be impressive.” (Pathogenomics)
“…that new DNA sequencers, like everything else in life, often look better when they’re vapourware.”(Forbes)
What is definitely true is that you really have to read also the small prints at the bottom of the page. You cannot, for example, use the USB-Stick-like device “MinIon” to sequence the complete genome in 15 minutes. You would need to run 20 GridIon instruments or “nodes” in parallel to achieve this turnaround time with a coverage of 50x.
So it is definitely fascinating what might be possible with the MinIon – just think about the point-of-care market, where we would need small, disposable devices to work on site. But still you should be able to interpret the data and I look forward to learning how they will solve this issue. And furthermore I am even more curious what kind of instruments we will be using in 5 years: Smaller or faster ones or something completely different? What do you think?