Despite single cell RNA technologies being front and center at the AGBT meeting in Marco Island, Florida, last week, two new DNA sequencing technology presentations from MGI and Genapsys created their own buzz.

Both companies presented big plans in the sequencing space, but they are far too new on the scene to predict disruption of a quickly maturing market. “Seeing real data from real users will be interesting. Until then, it’s just marketing meant to slow down Illumina,” noted Shawn Baker, the founder of the genomics consulting firm

GenapSys originally announced their technology several years ago including an alpha/beta testing program that never seemed to get off the ground. Having been in stealth mode for roughly five years, Genapsys resurfaced earlier this year at JP Morgan Healthcare with the announcement of a commercial launch of a portable, inexpensive sequencer with Gene Electronic Nano-Integrated Ultra-Sensitive (GENIUS) technology. Therefore, it was not a complete surprise to see them presenting at AGBT last week.

The technology underlying their technology remains somewhat unclear. In a very brief conversation with Hesaam Esfandyarpour, PhD, the CEO of Genapsys, he noted that the DNA is anchored to the chip and the polymerase is tethered to the DNA. Esfandyarpour, an inventor on the ion torrent patents, started GenapSys in 2010, just after receiving his PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford in 2009, according to his Linkedin page.

Genapsys noted that they have two chips developed—one with one million sensors and a second with 16 million sensors—but have a goal of 144 million sensors on one chip. The system will cost $10,000 with average run costs at about $300 and turnaround time in one day.

Genapsys’s platform is small and cheap. The other end of the DNA sequencing spectrum was also included at AGBT, through a presentation by MGI given in the final slot of the meeting, when the audience’s attention migrates to which chaise lounge to choose at the pool. However, as Roy Tan, PhD, general manager of MGI Americas, began presenting MGI’s latest technology, it was clear that swimming could wait.

A slide from the presentation given by Roy Tan at the AGBT 2019 meeting. [MGI]
Tan unveiled a novel sequencing approach called “CoolNGS”—an extension of their core DNBseq™ sequencing technology, claiming that CoolNGS packs the coveted quadruple threat of sequencing—enhancing throughput, accuracy, read length, and cost effectiveness.

CoolNGS uses unlabeled nucleotides and four fluorescent labeled antibodies in its cPAS (combinatorial probe anchored synthesis) sequencing process to recognize the incorporated bases. Detection via antibodies allows them to use unmodified nucleotides in the sequencing reaction. This, according to Tan, avoids “scars” that can accumulate with traditional sequencing methods and affect the accuracy of subsequent reads. In this new process, the natural scarless bases are added in each sequencing cycle, keeping the polymerase happy and enabling more accurate and longer reads.

A slide from the presentation given by Roy Tan at the AGBT 2019 meeting. [MGI]
“The multiple fluorescent dye molecules attached to the antibodies provide a higher signal-to-noise ratio and reduced consumption of expensive materials, together with incorporating natural bases with no interference between sequencing cycles,” said Rade Drmanac, PhD, CSO of MGI.

In addition, MGI’s newest sequencing platform, MGISEQ-T7 was center stage with a promotional movie that made sequencing DNA feel like it should be done on the Millennium Falcon. (The video can be viewed here, courtesy of Dale Yuzuki’s Twitter account.)

MGI notes that the T7 delivers 6Tb of data per day and that its quadruple flow cell staging allows simultaneous but independent operation of 1 to 4 flow cells in a single run. With its single tube Long Fragment Read (stLFR) technology, the platform enables both long reads at 50–70kb and short reads at 5000M reads per flow cell, as well as multiple applications, in the same run on the same instrument. They hope to roll out the T7 at the end of the year at $1 million/instrument and $5.00/Gb.

After Tan’s presentation, Eric Green, MD, PhD, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, provided a moment of brevity by asking if the T7 would be available on Amazon, clarifying that he would expect free shipping with his Amazon Prime account. The laughter in the room was as genuine as the sense that MGI intends for the T7 to become a contender in the sequencing revolution.



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