Well, the Marco Island AGBT meeting just wrapped up and I they definitely saved some of the best for the end. I do not have a ton of time but here are my favorites:
Stephan Schuster gave a funny, entertaining and interesting talk on mammoth mitochondrial genomics. He riddled the talk with funny stories and one liners about his efforts to sequence old DNA and to publish the results. He did a good job of showing why Roche-454 sequencing is quite ideally suited for studies of old DNA.
John Leamon from Raindance Technologies summarize some of their work on droplet based microfluidics. He showed videos of droplets moving through their system and showed how it sould be used for various digital PCR-like activities.
But it was the last talk of the whole meeting that really did blow my mind. It was from Steve Turner from Pacific Biosciences. He presented an overview of their sequencing technology as well as a tiny bit of data. Now, normally I am uninterested in marketing talks where little data is presented. But this talk was different. First, their technology clearly has enormous potential for revolutionizing the sequencing field. Basically, what they are doing is reading the activity of a DNA polymerase as it replicates a single DNA molecule and they do it in real time. He referred to this as using the DNA polymerase as a sequencing engine and then he took the crowd through the details of the technology and some of the modifications they have made to make it work better. I will try to post later with more detail on their methods.
No - they are not quite ready for prime time yet. But the potential is pretty absurd. I see two key major advantages of their method if it can be fine tuned to work well -- (1) it is screamingly fast - because they let the polymerase do all the work in essence (2) it can potentially get long reads -- right now he claimed they could do up to 1500 base pairs and theoretically it could go much higher. If they can get this to work with reads of 10,000 bases for example, this will completely reconfigure the field. No longer will one have to worry about the complexities of mapping short reads as with many of the current "new" methods. And the long reads, coupled with many molecules per run, plus the high speed, this technology is the first I have seen that has shown some results and that could really lead to the $1000 human genome. Again, not clear when/if they will be ready for release to the world so don't hold off buying one of the other systems that currently work (i.e., Illumina, Roche, ABI Solid) if you want to do "next gen" sequencing. But this company is one to keep an eye on.
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