Increased NIH Funding
The annual budgets for sequencing projects at the NIH and DOE have risen at unprecedented rates in the last few years. NIH is still the key funding agency and funds more than one-third of the projects in the Genomes On-Line Database. This year, new funds have been added as a result of the stimulus bill. In addition to the funding for sequencing projects, the National Human Genome Research Institute has been providing millions of dollars per year to a large number of groups for their development of “$100,000 Genome” and “$1,000 Genome” sequencers.
All of this funding has generated significant momentum in the industry. The last two years have seen fairly significant technology improvements—paired-end techniques, multiplexing, and increasing read-lengths. These advances have resulted in a growth of applications for DNA sequencers and also increased sequencers’ output per hour.
Most of the second-generation sequencers have read-lengths in the range of 25 bases to 75 bases. This would be a severe limitation if the companies were not offering paired-end reads, which allow the fragments to be mapped more easily. All of the sequencing companies are now offering paired-end reads. These have been developed with long inserts of thousands of kilobases. Companies have also been increasing the systems’ read-lengths and adding multiplexing capabilities.
New techniques have definitely amplified the usefulness of second-generation systems. Applications are now shifting away from whole-genome studies and toward more targeted resequencing experiments with fewer genes in larger numbers of samples.