Lately, it feels like a day doesn’t go by without hearing about the vision of self-driving cars in newspapers, on TV, radio news and in the blogosphere. And now, just this month, the government pledged $4 billion over the next 10 years to make this vision a reality. Highlighted among the promises of this technology is the reduction of road accidents through elimination of human error and enhancement of human productivity through the ability to focus on tasks beyond simply piloting the car; both benefits that I am sure we would all agree hold great value. And then there is the simplification of the overall driving experience, something that will greatly impact how to next generations take to the road.
Imagine being able to program a destination in your car, turn your attention to your morning’s email to arrive at work with email out of the way and ready to get going on that critical dataset that might hold your next discovery. No longer is it required to understand the rules of the road, the intricacies of how to feather the clutch or train the mind to be constantly on the lookout for traffic hazards.
While arguably on a very different scale, the concept of “self-driving” sequencing has already taken shape. The Ion Chef System and Ion S5 Sequencers from Ion Torrent are specifically designed to reduce the manual tasks of sequencing enabling the user to go from DNA to data with just 45 minutes of hands-on time; the vast majority of the pipetting, incubating and sample manipulation is completed automatically. Moreover, the workflow has become so simple that a user of any experience level should be able to program their “destination” and start their sequencing “journey” without extensive training.
However, as those of you aware of the NGS workflow will point out, our sequencing journey does not end here. There is the task of interpreting the gigabases of data that are generated. If you are not familiar with the Ion Torrent workflow, you might be correct in assuming this task to be highly time intensive often demanding skills beyond that of the standard bench scientist.
Fortunately, like a simple mapping feature required in the self-driving car, two components of the Ion Torrent workflow help to get the user to their sequencing destination. First, a targeted sequencing approach enabled by Ion AmpliSeq technology provides a “roadmap” for our journey. Second, while I won’t go into the specifics of the software and analysis algorithms available, an automated data analysis pipeline, directly linked to the sequencing output of the Ion S5 Sequencers, crunches the calculations for how to reach our destination in the background, only alerting the user once the destination has been reached.
So, much like the self-driving car, decreased human interaction with Ion Chef System and Ion S5 Sequencers promises the following benefits:
- Diminished risk of human error
- Increased run-to-run consistency
- Walk away freedom
- More time to get research done
- Confidence in sequencing results
- Suitable for researchers of any experience level
While self-driving cars might be a vision of the future, I would argue that “self-driving” sequencing is here today enabling researchers to walk away from the bench to focus on the science. To learn more, click here for more details on Ion Chef System, Ion S5 Systems, Ion AmpliSeq technology and Ion Torrent Bioformatics solutions.