First Ion Torrent Proton sequencer installed at Baylor Genome Center 10

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Yesterday was a good day. Baylor and Life Technologies announce that the upcoming Ion Torrent Proton sequencer has been installed at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center. (For those of you who may have missed it, this was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, and was considered by some ‘today’s coolest gadget‘ there.) Promising a $1,000 genome in 4 hours, a key milestone was met: getting the first ‘early access’ systems into the hands of customers.

‘Early Access’ means that these are ‘beta’ units, which enables customers to see for themselves a product that may have rough edges and will have areas under active development, such as documentation, software, packaging and final protocols. (Believe me, there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of dependencies, and you can imagine how complex a process it is to get a product like a genome sequencer out the door.)

A YouTube video showing the installation at Baylor is cool. I like especially the shot of the Proton I chip at the 1:30 mark – reproduced here – that shows clearly a 73% well occupancy, and of those 93% are ‘live’ which means have some sequence on them. The relatively high loading numbers, almost six months before its commercial launch in the Fall of 2012, bodes well. It’s a good day for us. (Disclosure: I am a Life Technologies employee, and am only sharing publicly available information, in case anyone was wondering!)

I expect my former colleagues at Illumina to not stand still – the planned HiSeq 2500 upgrade promises a 27-hour human genome (120Gb runs) this summer, but the instrument price will still be daunting (roughly 3x the price of a Proton system, about $740K USD vs. about $244K USD), and the per-Gb reagent cost will still be at a premium. (The Proton II chip, slated to come out six months after the Proton I chip, will be on the order of $15/Gb or less, compared to the current list price of HiSeq 2000 reagents, about $36/Gb.) (HiSeq 2500 reagent pricing has not been announced, but it is expected that customers will pay some premium over the $36/Gb HiSeq 2000 pricing, ‘nowhere near twice as much‘ according to the Illumina CEO Jay Flatley.) A very expensive instrument at 3x the price, and much more expensive to run, that takes a lot longer – the HiSeq 2500 will have to make a lot of changes to compete against the Proton (especially the Proton II chip).

Lastly customers will see data soon off of the Proton I chip, from the TargetSeq whole exome kit that will be launched with the Proton I. The data that was presented at a local user group meeting by a colleague this week looked very good, and I’ll talk about this more in an upcoming post.


About Dale Yuzuki

A sales and marketing professional in the life sciences research-tools area, Dale currently is employed by Sysmex-Inostics USA as the Director of Marketing. He will help Sysmex-Inostics build out their liquid biopsy franchise (OncoBEAM and Plasma SafeSEQ) with market planning, positioning and branding as well as thought leadership, opinion-leader management, and sensing of market trends. He also represents Sysmex at tradeshows and other events. For additional biographical information, please see my LinkedIn profile here: and also find me on Twitter @DaleYuzuki.

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10 thoughts on “First Ion Torrent Proton sequencer installed at Baylor Genome Center

  • Shawn Baker

    Dale, it’s great to see the new Proton out in the field. However, is the official launch date of the Proton 1 now in the fall? I thought it was originally slated for the summer. This would push the Proton 2 into spring of next year. I thought the $1000 genome was to be in the hands of consumers by the end of 2012. (Of course, this is all just a timing quibble – if the Proton 2 delivers on the promises, it should really shake things up.)

    • Dale Yuzuki

      Yes the official launch date of the Proton (system) and Proton I (chip) is ‘by the end of Q3’, which as you know is probably September 30 or thereabouts. 🙂 

      We’ve stated that the Proton II will be available six months after that, so not exactly by the end of 2012. I’m expecting to see more Proton I data over the next six months, which will help the sales effort quite a bit.

      • Michelle Freemont

        Good Stuff. So is the plan to have these machines freely available for use by reference laboratories and other situated like the Baylor lab?

        • Dale Yuzuki

          Yes, if by ‘freely available’ you mean ‘freely available for anyone who has money to purchase one’. And of course a legal disclaimer, for research use only.


          • Michelle Freemont

            No, I assumed purchase of course. However, research use only? I understand Baylor will be providing a fee-for-sevice arrangement, so does your reply mean that they have a commercial license?

          • Dale Yuzuki

            Currently, all NGS platforms are FRUO (for research use only). LifeTech has the 3500 Sanger Capillary Electrophoresis system submitted to the FDA, awaiting approval.

            I am not an expert in clinical diagnostics, but my understanding that the tests Baylor (and Emory and others) who offer NGS-based tests are doing so as a Laboratory Developed Test.

            Hope this helps.


          • Michelle Freemont

            i consult for several Dx companies. And the issue, even with LDTs, is whether they have freedom to operate using a technology that is otherwise patented. This is a somewhat different issue than the regulatory one you note.  So, I assume LT is not concerned with reference labs or university labs providing an LDT test, as a fee-for-service to patients/docs.

  • Dragan

    Dale, ILMN might be bot. Would in that case Roche be considered as better and more dangerous competitor to LIFE? Illumina has some Nanopore holdings as well

    • Dale Yuzuki

      Hi Dragan, nice to hear from you.

      Should Roche eventually succeed in their pursuit (and IMHO they eventually will), I do not view ILMN being more of a threat, rfather less.

      Less of a threat as their development won’t be as aggressive, since Roche is by nature a conservative company. Remember what Roche did to 454, and how long it took for them to roll out the FLX XLR, now renamed FLX+.

      Also not afraid of nanopores, as someday they will work as a commercial product, and the market is big enough for everyone. No ‘winner takes all’ in a fast moving and fast growing market. Room for many participants.