Sequencing Competition Heats Up!

Illumina and Ion Torrent are two of the front runners in development of next-gen sequencing technology and it seems clear that both players believe there is only room for one top dog on this playground.

Back in  the middle of 2011, Ion Torrent released an application note “The Ion PGM™ sequencer exhibits superior long-read accuracy” that, not only claimed better performance, but also seemed to stick it to Illumina by claiming they had accomplished in months what had taken Illumina years to accomplish. They also went as far as producing a humorous video, in the vein of Apple vs PC, attacking the Illumina MiSeq instrument.

Illumina didn’t think it was funny and fired right back with its presentation, “Analysis of Inaccuracies in Ion Torrent’s Long Read Application Note” disputing the Ion Torrent claims and demonstrating better performance.

Then, in December, Illumina got serious and filed a lawsuit which alleges that Ion Torrent’s Personal Genome Machine platform and OneTouch System platform incorporate dense arrays of beads without optical signatures, thus infringing on their patents.

Most recently, at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco both companies made claims of significant progress in technology development and announced updates to come later this year.

  • Illumina introduced the HiSeq® 2500, a new sequencing system that will enable researchers and clinicians to sequence an entire genome in approximately 24 hours, the so called “Genome in a Day”. The HiSeq 2500 leverages the continued technology advancements from both the HiSeq 2000 and MiSeq™ platforms.
  • Ion Torrent, made the announcement that it will be launching the Ion Proton Sequencer later this year, a benchtop sequencer that sequences the entire human genome in one day for just $1,000. It is the successor to the company’s PGM (Personal Genome Machine) which was introduced just over a year ago.

Who will eventually be the winner of this high stake race?  That is yet to be determined but it is clear, a little healthy competition is producing advancement in technology at unprecedented pace.  Ultimately, it will be the researcher making discoveries with the technology who is the winner.  Ain’t free enterprise great!