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Speedy sequencing: the international verdict is out

16 October 2015

One thousand international laboratories, including New Zealand’s Malaghan Institute have been test-driving a tiny 100 gram DNA sequencer during the last year. Today, the European Bioinformatics Institute[1] released their recommendations and protocols for this highly portable tool saying, the performance and accuracy of the device is consistently good.


Malaghan Institute bioinformatician Dr David Eccles who was part of the open, international consortium putting the MinION™ through its paces says, “This is great news for the scientific community today, but over the next few years its use will become mainstream.  The MinION™ sequencer is almost entirely electronic, stripping away everything that makes current DNA sequencing technologies big, heavy, slow and expensive.  It's a bit like replacing a carrier pigeon with a text message on your smart phone.  When the complete human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it took more than a decade, required huge machines and cost billions of dollars. The speed and portability of MinION™ has implications for finding out what bacteria you are fighting off when you are ill, to tracking disease outbreaks in the field, to testing packaged food or the trafficking of protected species.  It will also be tested by NASA on the International Space Station[2]

Developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, the miniature sequencer connects to a laptop via a USB cable. The genetic sequences are read off as the DNA in a sample is sucked through tiny pores in the MinION™ device.  The resulting recommendations and protocols from the international evaluation have been published before peer-review on the F1000Research platform[3].


[1] The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) helps scientists realise the potential of ‘big data’ in biology, helping them exploit complex information to make discoveries that benefit mankind. They manage the world’s public biological data and make it freely available to the scientific community via a range of services and tools, perform basic research and provide professional training in bioinformatics. They are part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), a non-profit, intergovernmental organisation funded by 21 member states and two associate member states. Their 570 staff represent 57 nationalities, and we welcome a regular stream of visiting scientists throughout the year. They are located on the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

[2] http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/biomolecule_sequencer/

[3] The traditional anonymous pre-publication peer review of research articles can cause long delays before new results become visible. F1000Research uses an author-led process, publishing all scientific research within a few days. Open, invited peer review of articles is conducted after publication, focusing on scientific soundness rather than novelty or impact.