This year’s PAG meeting featured the usual treats of interesting organisms being sequenced (koala!), reports from great plant and animal projects, and cool new technology approaches. While we found all of it fascinating, the theme of the meeting for us was large DNA. From the sessions we attended to the queries we heard most often from scientists visiting our booth, there was more interest than ever in sequencing with very long fragments of DNA.
We’ve been working with large DNA for several years now, and many of our customers use their BluePippins to prepare libraries of the largest possible fragments for sequencing on the PacBio platform. This technology pairing has yielded excellent results, many times even doubling the average read length generated by the sequencer.
Scientists were interested in a variety of other methods for using large DNA as well. One example is BioNano Genomics, which offers a genome mapping tool that allows researchers to explore structural variation and large genomic elements. There was also a lot of talk about 10X Genomics, which just announced a molecular barcoding product that can be used with short-read sequencers to view the long-range information that typically can’t be resolved by that data alone.
There were also some library prep tools geared toward analysis of large DNA fragments. Lucigen and Dovetail Genomics both offer prep kits for the generation of mate-pair libraries, and both show excellent results for increasing the contig N50 numbers that can be produced from typical sequencing workflows.
So why all this interest in large DNA? We believe that after years of generating genome assemblies with short-read sequencers alone, scientists have realized that they are not completely capturing important genomic elements, such as copy number variants, repetitive elements, and more. These new services and products all help scientists analyze genome biology more fully by using their existing data or by adding a new layer of information to help resolve these regions. It’s an exciting time for the field as we now have the ability to go back to draft genome assemblies and significantly improve their quality to benefit global communities of researchers.