Santa Cruz Tech Beat


DNA sequencer the size of a mobile phone

By Branwyn Wagman,
UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute

Investigators at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute have optimized performance of a mobile-phone-sized MinIONTM DNA sequencer, marketed by Oxford Nanopore. Their work was reported in Nature Methods on February 16, 2015.

The MinION device reads individual DNA strands base-by-base as they pass through a nanoscale pore (nanopore) under control of an applied voltage. This process is facilitated by an enzyme bound to the DNA.

Biomolecular engineering graduate student Miten Jain led the research with director of comparative genomics Benedict Paten and biomolecular engineering professor Mark Akeson, who along with biochemist David Deamer has helped develop the scientific foundation of the nanopore device for the past 18 years.

To optimize the MinION’s performance, the researchers used standard reference genomes and an expectation-maximization algorithm to obtain robust maximum likelihood estimates for rates of read insertions, deletions, and substitution errors (4.9%, 7.8%, and 5.1% respectively).

The MinION technology is constantly evolving, resulting in multiple updates to the platform in the past six months, Akeson explained. “Each of these updates has resulted in improved read quality,” he said.

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