This is the first mention of how much the much-vaunted Oxford Nanopore sequencing technology might cost (boldface mine):
Oxford Nanopore said last month that it plans to make the MinIon sequencer commercially available through the MinIon Access Program. Customers need to join the MAP, which the firm describes as a “developer-style access program,” and pay a $1,000 fee, which includes the MinIon MkI device and a starter kit with three flow cells, two reagent kits, software, and “ongoing intermittent free supplies.”
…Users can purchase additional flow cells in sets of 1, 12, 24, or 48, at a cost ranging from $500 per flow cell to $900 per flow cell, depending on the number of flow cells purchased at a time.
Oxford Nanopore does not specify the maximum yield of each flow cell, which has been increasing with newer versions. Run time is not fixed, so output varies depending on the length of the run. Last year, the company said its internal record was 1 gigabase per flow cell, and some users achieved more than 500 megabases per flow cell.
Last month, the firm said it plans to introduce a fast mode option, which will increase the data output by tenfold, to up to 40 gigabases for the MinIon MkI.
If we limit ourselves to best case scenario of what is actually in hand, 1Gb of sequence at $500, that doesn’t seem so hot. In the microbial world (cuz humans are boring), that might get you two or three bacterial genomes per flow cell, and that would then require some sort of barcoding method (MOAR MONIES!) to tell samples apart. Otherwise, you are, in the best case, spending $500 on sequencing reagents alone per bacterial genome. You might as well do PacBio sequencing.
Yes, I realize Nanopore doesn’t require a very expensive machine. But if we’re serious about getting this into the clinic, as opposed to doing gee whiz stuff, this needs to be cost-effective (and generate reliable data* of course) at a scale of dozens or hundreds of samples per day. Doesn’t seem like it’s there yet, though hopefully the “fast mode option” isn’t vaporware, which would help lower costs, although require additional molecular biology expenses to barcode DNA from different strains.
There endeth the grumpiness.
*I’m not convinced at all that for routine surveillance (not “whaddya think about these six isolates”) the error rate for Nanopore allows you to identify incipient outbreaks. Too many errors as best as I can tell.