Applied Biosystems (ABI) has teamed up with several service providers to increase scientists' access to its SOLiD genome analysis system and hopefully save them some money.
Initial members of the programme include the US firms Agencourt Bioscience Corporation and Seqwright DNA Sequencing, plus GATC Biotech in Germany and Sistemas Genómicos in Spain.
The idea is to let scientists access Applied Biosystem's 'supported oligo ligation detection', or SOLiD, system, even if they wouldn't normally be able to. Dr David Buck, vice president of operations at SeqWright also believes that the equipment is "opening doors to projects that were beyond the budgets of many researchers prior to its release".
The system is designed to measure variations in the kinds and amounts of DNA or RNA and disease in a sample through collecting genetic information. According to ABI, applications on offer from its partners include whole genome sequencing, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), microbial and eukaryotic resequencing, digital karyotyping, medical sequencing, genotyping, gene expression and small RNA discovery, among others.
The fact that the machine works quickly makes sequencing more cost effective, according to Professor Manuel Pérez-Alonso, scientific manager at Sistemas Genómicos.
This was echoed by Dr Dennis Gilbert, chief scientific officer and vice president for research at Applied Biosystems, who explained to LabTechnologist.com that: "The next generation technologies do the upfront chemistry in a massively parallel manner, doing close to a billion reactions at the same time. This means that one next generation instrument could replace between 50 and 100 of the current instruments."
SOLiD consists of a sequencing unit, chemistry, a computing cluster and data storage. ABI claims it is the industry's 'highest throughput next-generation sequencing platform'. It is also designed to be accurate enough (raw base accuracy is greater than 99.94 per cent after two-base encoding) to discriminate between random or systematic errors from true single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
This is not the first time that Agencourt Bioscience Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Beckman Coulter, has worked with ABI, itself part of the Applera Corporation. In fact, The machine itself was developed following ABI's $114.3m acquisition of Agencourt Personal Genomics in July 2006.
The two firms have also collaborated on a number of projects over the past few years, such as the mutation detection study in the genome of the ethanol-producing yeast, Pichia stipitis. Agencourt also recently got hold of its second SOLiD system.
Meanwhile, GATC said the machine will be used in combination with bioinformatic solutions which are expected to decrease the overall costs.
"The SOLiD System is ideal for the identification of indels, rearrangements and structural variants due to its mate pair libraries with large inserts," said Peter Pohl, GATC's CEO, adding that the firm has already received sequencing orders for the system even though it has not finished being installed yet.
Each service provider will not only do the actual ultra high throughput genetic analysis, they can also help with protocol assistance, data storage and analysis should it be needed.
The instrument is battling it out with Roche Diagnostics / 454 Life Sciences' Genome Sequencer FLX system and Illumina's 1G Genome Analyser.
ABI will be hoping SOLiD, which was only recently launched, will boost sales of its DNA sequencing technologies business, which dropped 2 per cent to $129m during the latest quarterly results from ABI. This part of the business is hardly insignificant to ABI either - it makes up around 27 per cent of the company's total revenues.
Clearly the company will also be looking to recoup some of the increased research and development (R&D) costs attributed to the machine.