This brief survey of the impact of next-generation sequencing and its transformative power is not meant to be comprehensive but rather exemplary. The remarkable reach of NGS into disparate scientific endeavors, both commercial and research-oriented, is revitalizing associated aspects of science, computation, and the economy.
The challenges and innovation required to analyze and properly interpret large sequence datasets has effectively breathed new life into the disciplines of computational biology and bioinformatics. Similarly, the resulting NGS-driven computational infrastructure demands have increased both the need to build data centers and the subscription to large server farms in the grid/cloud environment. These demands not only increase hardware sales and drive innovation but also create jobs across the spectrum from advertising to engineering, administration to construction.
Sequencing instrumentation and associated reagent sales represent an almost uniquely American enterprise at present, and the competition for market share is at a feverish pitch. This has escalated of late, as a new wave of so-called third-generation instruments is being introduced to the market. In this class of instrumentation, run times are measured in a few hours rather than days and although the data volume per instrument is much lower than NGS instruments, so is the cost of reagents and consumables per run.
Using a combination of speed and economy, these new instruments will likely ease the introduction of massively parallel DNA sequencing into the clinical setting, facilitate food and pharmaceutical product safety testing, revolutionize agricultural genomics, and expand even further the effective reach of DNA sequencing technology into our daily lives.
However, threats to this very desirable trajectory exist. They clearly include the likely dramatic decreases in government funding for scientific research, and as importantly, the downward spiral in our emphasis as a country on the importance of education.
Only our complacency as a nation in these areas will allow this current area of scientific innovation to slip away.