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Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
New York NY USA

Brian Krueger is the owner, creator and coder of LabSpaces by night and Next Generation Sequencer by day. He is currently the Director of Genomic Analysis and Technical Operations for the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. In his blog you will find articles about technology, molecular biology, and editorial comments on the current state of science on the internet.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Advances in Genome Biotechnology conference starts tomorrow in Marco Island, FL.  Twitter and the blogs have been a flurry of speculation about what the major vendors will present at this years’ meeting.  In previous years we’ve seen the introduction of new, “disruptive” technologies such as the ion torrent platform, the Oxford Nanopore Minion and the PacBio RS.  Like many, I have mixed emotions about this conference.  It’s more CES than science.  Given the history of the major announcements and where those products are now 3 and 5 years out it’s hard to get excited about a show stopper.  While technically impressive, the MinIon is still mired in problems that were glossed over in the fanfare of the original announcement and PacBio is FINALLY starting to deliver on the promises it made eons ago.  I should also mention my disappointment with Ion Torrent here.  This is yet another company that made a major announcement at AGBT and failed spectacularly. Keith Robison thinks they still have a shot, but I couldn’t disagree more.  Its usefulness has faded for most applications, especially now that the PIII chip is off the table – although if released, it is now so far behind the output of a HiSeq 4000 or HiSeqX that it could only be competitive if the cost per base and instrument were dirt cheap.

But here we are teeming with anticipation of what the next big announcement might hold.  It’s a fools game to try to predict what that announcement could be because it could literally be anything.  Will PacBio have a benchtop long read sequencer?  Will Roche discuss the integration of Stratos Chemistry with the Genia chip sequencer?  Will Qiagen debut the Genereader?  Will bio-rad provide more details on the GnuBio amplicon sequencer?  I hope all of these things happen because despite all of the advances we’ve made since the sequencing of the human genome, it is becoming abundantly clear that our field is in the stranglehold of a not-very-benevolent dictator.  I’ve really struggled over the last few months to reconcile the actions of the current monopoly holder.  I tire of the yearly 4% reagent hikes, the release of innovative sequencers that are really just derivative, and the increasingly investor focused tactics.  It’s so discouraging from the customer perspective having been an early adopter and ardent supporter to now be treated as just another line in the growing ledger.  Customer unrest is palpable and the market is ripe for competition.  Fortunately, I’m not the only one that thinks this.  In a recent meeting with an NGS vendor he mentioned that the last guy he spoke with asked if his company had any new sequencers, because he’s so tired of Illumina that he’d buy 6 of anything on the spot.  We joked that maybe Roche should bring back the 454.

My wish for this years’ AGBT is that we do hear more from competitive sequencing technology.  I just hope the vendors have learned from past announcement blunders.  The last thing we need are more empty promises.

Speaking of empty promises, here are my 5 predictions for AGBT15:

1) Agilent will have the loudest booth music.

2) Oxford nanopore will win an award for best use of LEDs in a display.

3) KAPA Biosystems will have the most alcohol at their Lanai party.

4) There won’t be enough chairs for everyone to sit at the Saturday dinner.

5) The poster session will be the most informative section of the entire conference – because, data.

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