Terminating NGS data hassles

LaserGen, National Instruments collaborate to improve accuracy of DNA sequencing

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HOUSTON—LaserGenInc. and National Instruments are poised to team up to develop a newnext-generation sequencing (NGS) system, per an agreement announced last month.
The system willbe initially used to demonstrate accurate sequencing of the E. coli genome in the upcoming months usingLaserGen's Lightning Terminators, a sequencing chemistry for reversibleterminators, and National Instruments' graphical system design software forcontrol, imaging and instrumentation. The companies will then completedevelopment of their NGS system and install it at a leading genome center forvalidation testing by the end of the year.
Financial termsof the collaboration were not released.
According toMichael L. Metzker, president and CEO of LaserGen, National Instruments provedto be an attractive partner because of its leadership in system control andgraphical tools and interfaces. He notes that the collaboration will acceleratethe commercialization of LaserGen's reversible terminator technology.
"Combined withthe chemistry expertise of LaserGen, the collaboration made good sense for theparties to work together in this joint venture in developing what may be agame-changing technology for the next-generation sequencing market," he says."The outcome of the LaserGen and National Instruments collaboration could bethe first NGS technology that delivers fast, inexpensive and accurate genomedata to the market."
The initialfocus of the collaboration, Metzker explains, will be the demonstration ofLaserGen's Lightning Terminators coupled with the performance of NationalInstruments' technology. 
As it turns out,this isn't the first time the partners have collaborated. The two companieshave worked together for about two years. Metzker notes that LaserGen beganworking with National Instruments in 2009 through a medical grant award itreceived, and toward the end of last year, began discussions to identifytechnology needs and possible solutions in the NGS field.
Metzker explainsthat while competition has improved speed while reducing cost compared withSanger sequencing, the tradeoff is lower accuracy.
"Thetechnological force of LaserGen and National Instruments stand to address thelatter need by developing a more accurate NGS system while also gaining inefficiencies in speed and cost," he says.
John Hanks, vicepresident of life sciences at National Instruments, agrees that zeroing in onspeed, cost and accuracy will be a key focus of the collaboration. 
"Mostnext-generation sequencing companies have made some improvements in speed andcost, but are limited by the performance of the chemistry," he says. "Thecollaboration leverages strengths from both sides with the goal of matchinginstrumentation performance and analysis with that of the LaserGen chemistry."
Hanks notes thatfor its part of the collaboration, National Instruments will leverage itsinstrumentation and control hardware and software platform for integratingoptics, cameras, motion control, image processing, thermal control andmicrofluidics. 
"What is uniqueis that we are looking at using new parallel imaging processing andcomputational techniques using Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technologyto improve control and image processing performance," he adds.
Ultimately, lifescience companies want to get their products to market faster, and Hanks pointsout that National Instruments has made that goal possible for a broad range oflife science companies.
The initialthroughput specifications of the LaserGen and National Instruments system willbe greater than a gigabase per day. The system and reagents costs have yet tobe released, according to Metzker.
"We will measuresuccess through our demonstration projects through comparative analyses withother platforms internally and externally through our test site," he concludes.
Hanks notes thatas part of the collaboration, the team will be preparing technical papers forhigh-impact, peer-reviewed journals. LaserGen recently published its initialfindings on the improved accuracy of its proprietary chemistry in NucleicAcids Research. 
"Our intent is to use the LaserGen and NI system to show improvedaccuracy and performance gains in sequencing a bacterial genome," he says.

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