It had been my plan to resist posting any further entries here until January's end when I would have been able to share some preliminary work of relevance to anyone working in the area of mutation detection from NGS data, particularly mutations of diagnostic relevance. That work is underway and will find its way onto this blog soon, however two pieces of relevant (if disparate) news received within twenty four hours of one another encouraged me to debut early.
Firstly came a much hoped for but unanticipated e-mail from the administrative staff taking care of this year's AGBT conference at Marco Island, FL. I had hoped to attend my first AGBT in 2011 but was a little slow on the trigger and missed out. I was determined that this year would be different and so sought managerial approval months in advance. Getting approval so far ahead meant attendance was a sure thing, right?
As so many others also discovered in the year when a scientific conference began to rival even the greatest of rockbands for speed of ticket sales, unless you had managed to access the AGBT website, populate the necessary form elements and execute the requisite number of mouse clicks within 3 minutes of tickets going on sale you were too late. A trickle of tweets immediately commenced questioning whether this could in fact be happening. Surely a conference couldn't sell out THAT fast? Well, it did and realistically it was time to start planning for 2013 unless you were one of the lucky few who managed to place their name at appropriate altitude on the waiting list. The problem with waiting lists is that they involve waiting and it was only last night after two months of finger-crossing that I discovered I was one of the few who would be allocated a place.
I was excited to get the news and immediately began to wonder just what the big stories would be this year. With so many companies developing new sequencing technologies either silently (e.g. Oxford Nanopore) or vocally (e.g. Genia) whilst rivalries heat up between some of the biggest players (Illumina vs. Life) and expectations of new technologies from waning stars (454) increase, we're almost guaranteed some big news at AGBT. Therefore the second piece of news I referred to at the beginning of this post seemed to come more than a month too soon.
In a scoop that would rival Clark Kent for journalistic rapidity, Nick Loman blogged that Ion Torrent had just announced a new desktop analyser that will launch this year. This announcement paradoxically seemed simultaneously predictable and completely unexpected. Anyone who has purchased or considered purchasing an Ion Torrent PGM will be aware of the projected scalability of the machine. Most probably expect that it will some day live up to its acronym and achieve a level of throughput that actually enables Personal Genome Sequencing, however the announcement of the Ion Proton and its ability to sequence a $1000 genome in less than a day will have people wondering exactly what the plans for the PGM are. As someone who has recently been considering purchase of one, I now have begun to take Ion's hype with an even larger dose of salt than I had previously. Most people knew that 'the chip is the machine' meant scalability to a certain point but that eventually a ceiling would have to be hit. I find myself wondering if this ceiling will now be self-imposed to ensure marketability of two products rather than occurring due to technology limitations.
I would love to get peoples thoughts on both points. Are you coming to AGBT this year? What do you think the big new will be? Does the Ion Proton spell an end for the massive leaps in throughput for the PGM? Or do both have the potential to develop alongside one another for years to come?
I look forward to your thoughts.