March 21, 2011

Nanopore Sequencing, High-Speed Genome Sequencing

Nanopore sequencing is the most promising method under development for high-speed genome sequencing today.

The goals for nanopore sequencing devices are to sequence a full genome for
  • Less than $1,000
  • In a very short time

Where the “very short time” goal ranges from ‘less than 24 hours’ to ‘less than 15 minutes’ to ‘less than 5 minutes’. The ideal goal is that a person’s full-genome can be sequenced in real-time, during a visit to the doctor’s office, so the doctor can analyze, diagnose and recommend the right course of treatment right away.

Nanopore sequencing, in simple terms, involves passing the DNA molecule through a nanometer-sized pore and identifying each DNA nucleotide electrically as it is passing by and, being able to do so at very high speeds and for the full genome at a time.

The leading teams developing nanopore sequencing include Oxford Nanopore (Hagan Bayley), Harvard (Daniel Branton’s), UC Santa Cruz (Mark Akeson’s) amongst others. Oxford Nanopore with its GridION servers is the closest to having a commercial product in the market.

The Economist has a nice summary of the state of nanopore sequencing.

Once perfected, nanopore sequencing will also be applied to analyzing other large molecules in addition to the DNA.