January 20, 2015  |  General

Looking Ahead: The 2015 PacBio Technology Roadmap

By Jonas Korlach, Chief Scientific Officer

All of us at Pacific Biosciences are very proud of the momentum SMRT® Sequencing achieved in 2014, especially due to the more than 500 customer publications now in the literature describing its many applications. We remain deeply thankful to all the scientists who have applied our technology to gain new insights into genomes, transcriptomes, and epigenomes. By applying SMRT Sequencing to a wide variety of applications, our customers are demonstrating that long, unbiased reads have brought about new quality standards for many fields of genomic research. This exciting level of scientific activity and collaboration also provides us with important feedback to further optimize and develop sequencing applications for the PacBio® RS II.

In 2015, we plan to continue our track record of delivering improvements in all aspects of SMRT Sequencing. Sample preparation developments include improved and streamlined sample preparation protocols, barcoding solutions for multiplexing many samples in a SMRT Cell run, and protocols for improved yields of very long-insert libraries and full-length cDNA libraries.

With regard to sequencing runs, as was the case in the previous three years, we expect to deliver another ~4-fold increase in throughput, reaching >4 Gb of data per SMRT Cell run, with average read lengths increasing to 15-20 kb. We plan to accomplish this through a combination of improvements in the sequencing chemistry, protocol workflows, and software. An example is active loading to increase the efficiency of loading one polymerase per ZMW at frequencies greater than the Poisson limit. In the area of data analysis, we will continue to work with the bioinformatics community to create faster algorithms for de novo genome assemblies, further developing solutions like our FALCON assembler for resolving diploid or polyploid genomes, and streamlined analysis workflows for other applications such as Iso-Seq™, full-length HLA, and others.

It is exciting to think about the new frontiers in genomics research that will be realized by this continued innovation and performance increases in SMRT Sequencing, for example:
• High-quality population and disease-specific human reference genomes
• Comprehensive views of tissue and disease-specific transcriptome architectures
• High-quality plant and animal reference genomes and transcriptomes
• Comprehensive characterization of structural variation in genomes
• Large-scale microbial genome and epigenome studies

Examples of these successes have already been featured at last week’s Plant & Animal Genome meeting, with over 50 researchers presenting their work on the use of SMRT Sequencing in the plant and animal research space. Of course, we are also looking forward to next month’s AGBT conference, where advances in the human genomics research space will be highlighted as part of the conference program and during our workshop on February 27.

We are excited to interact with many of you at these and other forums as we support the efforts voiced by many in the community to “bring the ‘W’ back into whole-genome sequencing,” e.g. at the NHGRI event held last year on “Future Opportunities for Genome Sequencing and Beyond: A Planning Workshop for the National Human Genome Research Institute.” We wish you continued success in your research, and thank you again for your support!

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