A Cheap, Portable DNA Sequencing Device That Holds a Lot of Promise


Oxford Nanopore’s recently released data shows that although a significant advancement in nanopore based sensing technologies, it is still not ready for use in laboratories yet.

UK based biotech company Oxford Nanopore Technologies after an extended wait presented the results of its MinION gene sequencer. The results were from a test conducted by David Jaffe, a computational biologist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His personal review indicates the miniature device can change DNA sequencing radically, however in its current stage not ready yet for scientific or clinical use.

Average read lengths of 5kb are reported from the USB sized sequencer, with a maximum size of 20kb from the 512 nanopores/cm2. The read lengths are quite impressive for a nanopore based device, but similar to those currently possible on PacBio and Agilent sequencers. Deletions are more predominant than insertions, with most of the errors resolved with depth. Among Jeff’s concerns were difficulties in sequencing some parts of a genome. This issue alone was enough to prevent assembling complete genomic data from scratch using just the minion sequencer.

Agilent vs Nanopore


Agilent Bioanalyzer vs Nanopore MinION

According to Chief Technology Officer Clive Brown, the quality of the reads is independent of genome size. Sample fragmentation is the limiting factor for read length, with the electrical system causing no photo damage. As for current errors and concerns, he assured that future updates to the Markov model will reduce the systemic errors. Also the use of mixed pores with different properties will further reduce random deletions.

Oxford Nanopore is inviting researchers to try out the USB sized sequencers before the official launch of the devices. A deposit of US$1000 is required, plus $250 for shipping costs for anyone who wishes to try out the MinION sequencers. You can register yourself here. More details about the data released can be found here.

Image : Property of Oxford Nanopore

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