Roche and Precision System Sciences signed an exclusive agreement to develop and manufacture a fully automated emulsion PCR instrument for Roche’s portfolio of next-generation sequencing platforms. It is intended to support Roche’s GS Junior and GS FLX+ systems as well as the sequencing platforms that Roche is currently developing.

Until now, up-front preparation of genomic samples has been a time-consuming and complicated manual process within the sequencing workflow, according a Roche official. The new instrument will be designed to streamline the sample preparation workflow by automating the entire emulsion PCR process thereby reducing the total hands-on time from several hours to a few minutes.

“This partnership aims to address one of the key needs of sequencing customers,” said Dan Zabrowski, head of Roche Applied Science. “The automated solution will not only improve the efficiency of laboratory workflows, but also increase the reproducibility of results by eliminating manual workload. This development program has made great progress over the last year, and we are looking forward to working with PSS because they offer outstanding expertise and have a strong track record in developing fully automated solutions.”

“We are delighted that PSS and Roche are expanding their long-standing relationship in automated DNA extraction to the challenging field of DNA sequencing,” said Hideji Tajima, president of PSS. “Preparing samples for sequencing is a complex, high-skill process that continues to hamper broader use of the technology. We believe that together PSS and Roche will be able to develop an automated instrument that helps overcome this obstacle and promote greater use of advanced sequencing systems.”

The agreement builds on a long-term reciprocal relationship between Roche and PSS. The two companies first started to collaborate on automated DNA extraction fifteen years ago, a partnership that resulted in the successful development and marketing of nucleic acid purification products.

According to a report on the NGS market released in April by MarketsandMarkets, the major drivers for the growth of NGS market is advancement of technologies and decrease of price of the tests being conducted with increased promotion made by the research institutions for use of DNA sequencers or NGS technology. Similarly, this technology has overridden the microarray technology and currently many institutes prefer the NGS platforms over microarrays. Greater interest has been observed in the field of cancer and personalized medicines.

As the prices are expected to decrease further in the coming years, NGS testing may be considered for reimbursement under the health insurance policies, noted the study. Lack of reimbursements, pricing cuts, and lack of skilled labor are hampering the growth of the NGS market globally. Similarly, storage of the data is a major concern for the sequencing industry at present.

“North America commanded the largest share of 51.8% of the overall NGS market and was valued at $436 million in 2011,” wrote the MarketsandMarkets report authors. “Europe accounted for a share of 31.1% and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.1% from 2011 to 2016.”

Due to economic recession, the American and European regions have been estimated to have a plunge in the NGS market and are facing major financial cuts in the grants and awards to the research centers, the authors go on to say. However, the Asian region is expected to have a paradigm shift as the countries in this region such as India, China, Singapore, and South Korea are promoting and supporting the biotechnology research with enormous grants being made available.

The report notes key players in this market such as Illumina, Life Technologies, 454 Roche, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, and Pacific Biosciences.

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