Complete Genomics Democratizes Whole-Genome Sequencing

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In 2003, when the Human Genome Project produced sequences of about 90% of the genome, scientists and clinicians wondered when this technology would change healthcare. Meeting that goal depended on technology that could sequence a person’s genome quickly, accurately, and affordably. Through a collection of technological advances, the comprehensive suite of next-generation whole-genome sequencing (WGS) platforms from California-based Complete Genomics, a subsidiary of MGI Tech, meets all three criteria.

Radoje T. Drmanac, PhD
Radoje T. Drmanac, PhD

Radoje T. Drmanac, PhD, CSO at Complete Genomics, helped found the company in 2006. “We had technologies that we thought would conduct whole-genome sequencing, personal-genome sequencing, at an affordable price—make it even a routine process—to help research and then help medical applications,” he says. “So, that was the motivation.”

Developing a suite of steps

Drmanac and his colleagues worked for years to reach the long-desired milestone of accurate and affordable WGS. “In a way, we helped pioneer massively parallel sequencing,” Drmanac asserts. In 2008, that work spurred a crucial change in sequencing—the use of DNA nanoballs (DNBs).

Complete Genomics creates DNBs through rolling-circle replication and nanotechnology. “On the tip of a fine needle, you can put tens of thousands of these little DNBs,” Drmanac explains. “Because of that, we can make the most compact and efficient DNA-sequencing chips, reducing reagent consumption and making sequencing more efficient.” Plus, the high-fidelity DNA polymerase used in rolling-circle replication performs amplification of the original DNA sample. Consequently, and in contrast to other methods, such as PCR, Complete Genomics’ technology does not create clonal errors in DNBs resulting in more accurate sequencing.

On silicon chips, Complete Genomics makes arrays of DNBs where each spot in the array is occupied by a single DNB. The uniformly located binding spots position DNBs precisely, which eliminates fluorescence interference after the DNBs are labeled with Complete Genomics’ cPAS technology. Complete Genomics uses these DNB-loaded chips and detection methods to sequence samples through a technology that the company calls DNBSEQTM.

“DNBSEQ is a platform technology that has many advantages, and it brings a new level of capabilities in the DNA sequencing field,” Drmanac points out. “It is designed to be efficient and cost effective.” Part of that efficiency comes from loading so many DNBs on one chip. For example, chips used on the DNBSEQ-T7 Genetic Sequencer include seven billion spots to capture DNBs. As a result, the T7 can be used to sequence targeted panels, the transcriptome, a whole genome, and more, for large pools of barcoded samples.

At the 2020 Advances in Genome Biology and Technology (AGBT) meeting, Complete Genomics announced that DNBSEQ can sequence a genome for $100. For comparison, just a decade earlier, other companies struggled to sequence a genome for even $50,000. So, Complete Genomics created a 500-fold improvement in the economy of sequencing.

To help scientists explore Complete Genomics’ range of DNB-based platforms of different throughputs, the company created a demonstration lab in San Jose, CA, where a customer can see the laboratory automation equipment and collection of sequencers.

In January 2023 at the Biotech Showcase during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Drmanac introduced the DNBSEQ  platforms for the U.S. market. In addition, he announced a free three-month trial and reagent leasing that allow scientists to test the products in their labs.

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Changing tomorrow’s sequencing today

From decades of pioneering work, Complete Genomics developed a reputation for offering efficient and high-quality WGS platforms. In addition, these platforms provide accessible and affordable opportunities to accomplish a wide range of sequencing tasks. For example, the DNBSEQ-G400, DNBSEQ-T7, and DNBSEQ-T10x4 cost about 30% less than comparable platforms from other vendors. The optimized workflows created by Complete Genomics also save labs money and time.

The technological advances behind Complete Genomics’ WGS platforms change science today, but that’s only the beginning. Tomorrow, Complete Genomics’ products and expertise will push science ahead even farther and change the healthcare landscape. Drmanac concludes by talking about one crucial value of Complete Genomics’ technology. “Every child deserves their genome sequence, their genetic information,” Drmanac declares. “They deserve the healthier life that could come from sequencing-directed healthcare. “It cannot be more inspirational than that.”


*Unless otherwise informed, StandardMPS and CoolMPS sequencing reagents and sequencers for use with such reagents are not available in Germany, Spain, the U.K., Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Portugal, Austria and Romania. Unless otherwise informed, StandardMPS sequencing reagents and sequencers for use with such reagents are not available in Hong Kong.