Intelligent Bio-Systems had been developing their sequencing-by-synthesis (SBS) chemistry, which it licensed exclusively from Jengyue Ju and Columbia University, since 2006. In 2011 they released their first next-gen sequencer, the MAX-Seq, through a collaboration with Danaher Motion’s Dover and Azco Biotech. With the acquisition of IBS by Qiagen in 2012, the company may be taking a new direction. Qiagen has stated that they will be launching a new sequencer, presumably based on the Mini-20 (originally slated for late 2012, they have since pushed this back to mid-2014.] Qiagen has stated that their focus will be on this new instrument for the diagnostic market and have made no mention of the MAX-Seq.
IBS’s first released next-gen instrument, the MAX-Seq, was essentially being marketed as a low cost alternative to Illumina’s platforms. The list price, while not explicitly stated, has been given as ~10% below that of Illumina’s GAIIx, which would have put it at about $270k. Run costs were also significantly less expensive, ranging between $1200 and $2500, depending on the application. The lower cost partially came from the fact that only a fraction of the nucleotides used in the sequencing reaction are fluorescently labeled. This caused the resulting beads to be dimmer (see below for more details), but the sensor appeared to be sensitive enough to compensate. The other novel aspect of the MAX-Seq was its flexibility. The primary sequencing mode was based on SBS chemistry, but it could also be modified to run on SBL chemistry (similar to Life Technologies’ SOLiD). Also, while it launched using a bead-based system with emulsion PCR amplification, future updates were to allow it to operate with rolony (rolling circle) amplification.
The MAX-Seq could generate up to 66 Gb of high quality single-tag sequence per run (and 132 Gb of high quality paired-end data). It achieved this through the use of two 8-lane flow cells, with each lane capable of producing 100 M reads (75 M passing filter) with lengths of up to 55 bases. The full run with 55 bases took about 2.5 days, but 35 base reads on a single lane of a flow cell (producing 2.5 Gb of usable data) took under 1 day.
IBS’s follow on sequencing system, the Mini-20 (previously called the PinPoint Mini and then the Mini-Seq) was aimed squarely at the diagnostic and clinical markets. It was to be a lower cost, smaller throughput version of the MAX-Seq. The $125k instrument was to be capable of generating up to 80Gb per run across 20 independent flow cells, with each flow cell generating 20M reads of up to 2X100b. Up to 10 samples could be sequenced per day at an estimated cost of $150 to $300 per sample.