Long Reads in All Their Glory: PacBio, ONT User Meetings Report Coming Advances

A pair of user group meetings last week offered some intriguing glimpses into the future of long-read sequencing. Oxford Nanopore customers got together in New York, while PacBio users assembled in Palo Alto, Calif. The Sage Science team attended and sponsored the PacBio event, and we followed the ONT meeting on Twitter and through this great post from Keith Robison at his Omics! Omics! blog.

One of the first things we learned about long-read sequencing when it became available a few years ago is that size selection is perhaps even more important for this technology as it is for short-read sequencers. Removing shorter fragments during library construction allows these sequencers to focus on the longest fragments, maximizing the read lengths generated during sequencing. “ONT has started using the Sage BluePippin instrument to enrich libraries for long reads,” Robison reported, noting that some groups have demonstrated MinION library prep workflows that enrich for reads of 20 Kb and greater. Meanwhile, at the PacBio meeting, CSO Jonas Korlach told attendees about a protocol for building 30 Kb+ libraries using BluePippin for size selection and Diagenode for shearing.

Naturally, the sequencing community is most interested in what’s next for these technologies. According to Robison, Oxford Nanopore told users that they can expect to see direct RNA-seq, amplification-free barcoding, and a higher number of barcodes to allow for increased pooling of PCR amplicons and other samples. Its next instrument, the PromethION, is slated for release to early-access sites in the beginning of 2016; it may generate terabases of data in a single day.

At the PacBio meeting, Korlach spoke about several advances coming to SMRT Sequencing users, who are by all accounts champing at the bit for access to the company’s new Sequel instrument. Attendees were particularly excited about non-amplification-based target enrichment with Cas9, new protocols for HLA and 16S, and the ability to work with low-input samples.

Long-read sequencing is proving to be transformative for the genomics field, where it is chewing through genomes that make other sequencers choke. We enjoy these user meetings for the great science presented, including any number of people reporting the first-ever glimpses of novel architecture, genes, and other previously intractable genomic regions. It was a thrill to hear that PacBio users have now published more than 1,000 papers — truly a milestone for long-read sequencing.

Check out the tweet history for both meetings using #PBUGM and #MCMNewYork15.

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