Tiny device cuts cost of DNA sequencing

A British company has developed a disposable DNA sequencing device that’s the size of a USB memory stick.

Set for commercial release by the end of the year, the device is expected to cost around $900 – a fraction of the cost of a standard sequencing machine.

The MinIon is based on nanopore strand sequencing, in which DNA strands are pulled through a narrow hole one at a time and read as they go. It can sequence up to a billion bases.

The device, which delivers its results directly to a laptop, could be used by doctors wishing to screen patients for genetic diseases or biologists in the field.

The company’s also launching a larger version, the GridIon, which allows real-time sequencing by 2,000 nanopores at once, with an 8,000-nanopore version promised early next year.

Clustering the devices can speed up the process, so that a 20-node installation using an 8,000 nanopore configuration could deliver a complete human genome in 15 minutes, the company claims.

“The exquisite science behind nanopore sensing has taken nearly two decades to reach this point; a truly disruptive single molecule analysis technique, designed alongside new electronics to be a universal sequencing system,” says Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore. 

“GridIon and MinIon are poised to deliver a completely new range of benefits to researchers and clinicians.”