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Terminating NGS data hassles
August 2011
by David Hutton  |  Email the author


HOUSTON—LaserGen Inc. and National Instruments are poised to team up to develop a new next-generation sequencing (NGS) system, per an agreement announced last month.
The system will be initially used to demonstrate accurate sequencing of the E. coli genome in the upcoming months using LaserGen's Lightning Terminators, a sequencing chemistry for reversible terminators, and National Instruments' graphical system design software for control, imaging and instrumentation. The companies will then complete development of their NGS system and install it at a leading genome center for validation testing by the end of the year.  
Financial terms of the collaboration were not released.
According to Michael L. Metzker, president and CEO of LaserGen, National Instruments proved to be an attractive partner because of its leadership in system control and graphical tools and interfaces. He notes that the collaboration will accelerate the commercialization of LaserGen's reversible terminator technology.
"Combined with the chemistry expertise of LaserGen, the collaboration made good sense for the parties to work together in this joint venture in developing what may be a game-changing technology for the next-generation sequencing market," he says. "The outcome of the LaserGen and National Instruments collaboration could be the first NGS technology that delivers fast, inexpensive and accurate genome data to the market."  
The initial focus of the collaboration, Metzker explains, will be the demonstration of LaserGen's Lightning Terminators coupled with the performance of National Instruments' technology.   
As it turns out, this isn't the first time the partners have collaborated. The two companies have worked together for about two years. Metzker notes that LaserGen began working with National Instruments in 2009 through a medical grant award it received, and toward the end of last year, began discussions to identify technology needs and possible solutions in the NGS field.
Metzker explains that while competition has improved speed while reducing cost compared with Sanger sequencing, the tradeoff is lower accuracy.  
"The technological force of LaserGen and National Instruments stand to address the latter need by developing a more accurate NGS system while also gaining in efficiencies in speed and cost," he says.  
John Hanks, vice president of life sciences at National Instruments, agrees that zeroing in on speed, cost and accuracy will be a key focus of the collaboration.   
"Most next-generation sequencing companies have made some improvements in speed and cost, but are limited by the performance of the chemistry," he says. "The collaboration leverages strengths from both sides with the goal of matching instrumentation performance and analysis with that of the LaserGen chemistry."
Hanks notes that for its part of the collaboration, National Instruments will leverage its instrumentation and control hardware and software platform for integrating optics, cameras, motion control, image processing, thermal control and microfluidics. 
"What is unique is that we are looking at using new parallel imaging processing and computational techniques using Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology to improve control and image processing performance," he adds.  
Ultimately, life science companies want to get their products to market faster, and Hanks points out that National Instruments has made that goal possible for a broad range of life science companies.  
The initial throughput specifications of the LaserGen and National Instruments system will be greater than a gigabase per day. The system and reagents costs have yet to be released, according to Metzker.  
"We will measure success through our demonstration projects through comparative analyses with other platforms internally and externally through our test site," he concludes.  
Hanks notes that as part of the collaboration, the team will be preparing technical papers for high-impact, peer-reviewed journals. LaserGen recently published its initial findings on the improved accuracy of its proprietary chemistry in Nucleic Acids Research.
"Our intent is to use the LaserGen and NI system to show improved accuracy and performance gains in sequencing a bacterial genome," he says.
Code: E081112



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