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Illumina’s New Sequencers

The genetics world was rocked by a surprise announcement from its most prominent company: Illumina is secretly owned by Apple.

At least, that would explain the company’s obvious joy at making their previous products look obsolete, and the way their competitors have to constantly protest that, yes, Illumina’s latest gadget is obviously very cool, but wouldn’t you like to compare prices and specifications? (This theory also squares neatly with the BaseSpace app store project.)

All this is to say that Illumina’s CEO, Jay Flatley, declared yesterday at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference that the company’s newest sequencer will deliver the long-sought-after “thousand dollar genome,” the arbitrary but terribly exciting benchmark that the industry has been using for years to talk about a tipping point in the pace of genetic discovery. The platform in question, the HiSeq X, will be capable of sequencing five human genomes in a single day – making the HiSeq 2500, the barely two-year-old predecessor platform whose one genome a day was until recently the industry record, look like a slouch in comparison.

Oh, and for good measure, the new NextSeq 500 (which is already on sale) will be as fast as a HiSeq 2500, but as small and easy to use as the baby of the Illumina family, the MiSeq benchtop sequencer. All in all, even if Illumina really were a part of Apple, it’s hard to see how they could have made more of a splash with their new product line.

To be clear, you shouldn’t be pulling a cool grand out of your bank account and rushing out to get your genome sequenced. The HiSeq X retails for $1 million a unit – and Illumina won’t sell you fewer than ten of them. As Joel Fellis, Illumina’s Senior Manager for Product Marketing in Systems and Genomic Services, told Bio-IT World, “This instrument was purpose-built from the very inception of it to enable large-scale, whole-genome sequencing. Every aspect of the system was really optimized for that one goal.” That means the customer Illumina had in mind was a huge institution, if not a country, that wants to sequence thousands of genomes for population-wide research projects. The instrument won’t even support any other application than whole human genomes.
BioIT World