The Marco Island Advances in Genome Biology and Technology, or AGBT (or just Marco Island) conference started up today. Whatever weather they're having is better than the cold rain that soaked my commute.
A sure sign a conference is hot is that there are lots of announcements prior to the conference that could be at the conference. So, we've been treated to lots of announcements from established players (such as Illumina and ABI) and new entrants -- Pacific Biosciences has announced that they will launch their system there and has already been lining up sample prep & informatics partners and announcing their early access sites. PacBio has also started making noise about a follow-on instrument that will be for clinical apps -- launched in 2014!! Puh-leeze, that is the inconceivable future!
ABI had a new announcement today -- they're own baby SOLiD (officially the P1) to come out later this year, joining the previously announced 454 junior and Illumina IIe. The claim of "cost per sample as low as $200" is a eyebrow raiser -- I'm guessing that is for a highly multiplexed sample mix. List price at $230K and 50Gbases per run is the claim.
Ion Torrentcompany has been in a very noisy stealth mode -- founder Jonathon Rothberg gave a huge tease of a talk at the Providence meeting that ended just before giving anything specific. Of course, given that he launched 454, he gets a little slack in the hype department as he has delivered. BioIT World has a very nice writeup (which editor Kevin Davies was kind enough to point out to me about 2 weeks ago -- a sign of sloth on my part that I haven't mentioned it earlier). They didn't exactly succeed in peeling off the layers of secrecy, but it is far more detail than I've seen anywhere else (but in line with the few rumors I did hear). Rothberg will be giving the final talk at AGBT, and was expected to actually reveal some details. The general buzz is 454-style chemistry but with electronic -- not optical -- detection.
So it dropped my jaw through the floor today when Ion Torrent announced that they will be launching in April, starting with the gifting of two systems through a grant competition. I'd figured from what I heard & from the general pattern with AGBT that this year would bring the wraps off but nothing would be operating for another year or two (some previous AGBT announcees have seemingly faded to oblivion).
Of course, the devil is in the execution. Will they actually be able to deliver working systems? What will the reagent costs run? How reliable will the instruments be? And what will the performance profile look like -- run lengths, error rates & error modes and input DNA amounts & preparation.
Hold onto your seats -- and watch the #AGBT Twitter feed! Things will continue to get interesting.