Because marketing is not data. Businessweek is trumpeting Oxford Nanopore’s “unveiling” of new sequencers at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting (boldface mine):
Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd., the closely held company developing a portable gene-sequencing device that will sell for less than $1,000, plans to unveil two instruments that use its novel technology today.
Oxford Nanopore will show the portable product and a desktop machine to doctors and scientists attending a conference of the American Society of Human Genetics in San Francisco this week, Chief Executive Officer Gordon Sanghera said. He declined to specify when the company would begin taking orders, saying that it plans “commencing commercialization” this year….
Sanghera declined to disclose the speed or capacity of the MinION and GridION machines and wouldn’t confirm whether they are being field-tested by prospective customers. The company said in February that the devices had an accuracy rate of about 96 percent, comparable to machines on the market, and said it wouldn’t sell the products until they were accurate more than 99 percent of the time.
“I can’t comment if we are there yet,” Sanghera said.
Before I tear this a new hole, let me be clear: I want Oxford Nanopore to work. If it works as advertized, it will increase speed, lower computing costs, and decrease personnel costs (though high-quality de novo bacterial genomes, at least in my neck of the woods are already really cheap). But the Businessweek story is setting off all sorts of bullshit detectors. First, a 96% accuracy is “comparable to machines on the market”, if by comparable you mean about four times as worse. It still sounds like they haven’t solved the insertion/deletion (‘indel’) problem, which means that annotating genes (figuring out what genes the DNA sequence actually contains) will be a nightmare–if you lower sequencing costs, but increase human analyst costs, that’s not an improvement: What profit a Mad Biologist who gains cheap sequence only to have to pay tons of money on the back end? (I think that’s in the Bible somewhere).
If they had solved the indel problem and produced a kickass sequence of, let’s say, an E. coli K-12 genome (a standard test organism for sequencing technology), wouldn’t they have released the data? Hell, wouldn’t they be shouting it from the rooftops? So where are the data?
The vagueness sounds like a hybrid of ass-covering and marketing hype, but I hope I’m wrong.