A good fit for sequencing

CLC bio partners with Ion Torrent to expand high-throughput sequencing support

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—CLC bio recently announced a partnership with Ion Torrent, a new sequencing company started by Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, the founder of 454 Life Sciences, in a partnership the companies say, "will ensure that data can directly flow off of the Ion Personal Genome Machine (PGM) sequencer and into CLC bio's solutions."

Guilford, Conn.-based Ion Torrent uses a massively parallel semiconductor sequencing technology that detects nucleotide additions without using light, optics or lasers. Instead, a base is called by simply detecting the release of hydrogen ions following nucleotide incorporation. Among other features, the Ion PGM sequencer offers semiconductor scalability and is one-tenth the price of other sequencers to buy and to run, the companies note.

"Our Ion PGM sequencer does a single run in about an hour, but for scientists to maintain a high-speed workflow with no bottlenecks it's critical for scientists to have user-friendly analysis capacity," says Rothberg, who is CEO and chairman of Ion Torrent. "CLC bio is one of the leading developers of high-throughput sequence data analysis software, so we are pleased for the opportunity to partner with them."

As part of the promotional efforts of its technology, Ion Torrent will award two Ion PGM sequencers this spring through a grant program designed to help make DNA sequencing accessible to all scientists.

CLC bio is supporting this grant effort by supplying a lifetime license for CLC Genomics Workbench to both of the two winning grantees.

The Ion PGM Sequencer Grant Program is designed to foster the development of new applications for DNA sequencing that leverage the instrument's speed, scalability and low cost.

"Ion Torrent technology enables scientists to do experiments they never thought were possible, and that freedom will foster innovation and drive breakthroughs in research," Rothberg says. "We look forward to working with scientists around the world to create applications that will transform healthcare."

Lasse Görlitz, head of global public relations and marketing for CLC bio, says the partnership came about in part because CLC bio is also partnering with Raindance Technologies, with which Rothberg also serves in "an instrumental capacity."

"So he and his team already knew us and what we stand for," Görlitz explains. "As Ion Torrent has a core strategy of focusing on the platform itself and creating an ecosystem of partners around their technology, it made even more sense to partner so they didn't have to write software for analyses like the second-generation sequencing companies have done. Last but not least, we're already supporting all the other major sequencing technologies out there—Sanger, Illumina, SOLiD, 454, Helicos, and PacBio when they launch later this year—which makes it relatively straightforward to pick us as we're perceived as the leading software developer in high-throughput sequence analysis—a perception we like and don't think is undeserved."

Görlitz says the participation in the grant program with Ion Torrent came about as a natural extension of the partnership.

"We had no pressure from Ion Torrent to participate," he says. "We simply think it's a great idea to supporting creative and innovative research, and we like to support efforts like these as we also have done in the past. And of course we hope the winners will see the benefit of having industry-leading software that plays nicely with their new sequencer. That will surely enable a lot of non-programmers to get a successful endeavor when wanting to analyze all the data their new PGM instrument can churn out."

CLC bio will continue to evolve with Ion Torrent's platform, Görlitz says, which he notes will help ensure users always have full support and integration.

"It's not unthinkable that after Ion Torrent's launch we will be part of some interesting sequencing projects—perhaps even with some customization involved, as we have done with other platforms in the past," he says.

Looking at short-term and long-term synergies with the CLC bio's strategic goals as they mix with Ion Torrent's, he adds: "In the short term, no Ion Torrent customers will be left out in the cold so to speak, not having a viable solution to analyze their data, and we even enable researchers to mix the datasets from the different instruments to perform hybrid assemblies. On longer term, partnering with Ion Torrent fits absolutely perfectly within our overall strategy of providing a one-stop solution for high-throughput sequence data analysis that plays nicely together with all the different platforms."

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