Sage Blog

AGBT: The All-Nighter Parties Haven’t Broken Us Yet

20160213_124911We may be a little bleary-eyed, but so far we’re surviving the Super Bowl of genomics, better known as AGBT. Last night we had a blast co-sponsoring a party out on the golf course with PacBio, and we’re glad so many people came out to eat, drink, and mingle.

The quality of scientific talks alone is enough to distinguish AGBT from other genomics conferences; this year’s slate of presentations has been no exception. We enjoyed Matt Sullivan’s talk in the opening plenary session and were delighted to see that he’s still using that carefully honed NGS pipeline for low-input samples in his new lab at Ohio State.

In a talk from the Joint Genome Institute’s Ji Lee, attendees got a nice glimpse of Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing technology in a mini-metagenomics experiment. Lee said her team regularly gets about 500 Mb of 2D sequence per flow cell and that low-input samples have provided sufficient yield for sequencing. They modified the library prep method, adding size selection with BluePippin or PippinHT after shearing to generate 20 Kb libraries — a significant boost from the median read lengths they were achieving before.

We also enjoyed the PacBio workshop yesterday, where scientists shared a number of great projects for which SMRT Sequencing had made a considerable difference in assembly quality. The event focused on human biomedical sequencing applications, so we heard some really nice examples of how long-read sequencing has provided insights for infectious disease, cancer, drug metabolism profiles, and even induced pluripotent stem cells. PacBio users have been deploying many of our automated DNA size selection tools to achieve higher average read lengths for years now, and it’s great to see these ultra-long reads making such a difference.

And now it’s back to the conference. One more day of sessions, and then we can go home and sleep for three straight days!

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All Aboard for AGBT!

We can’t wait for the annual Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference next week, but we have to keep reminding ourselves not to go on autopilot this year. For the first time since the conference began in 2000, AGBT won’t be taking place in Marco Island — this year we’re heading to sunny Orlando and wondering how many attendees will sneak out for a spin on the local Quidditch pitch.

This year’s event promises the usual great talks from highly respected scientists, with names like Sean Eddy, Harold Varmus, David Haussler, and Debbie Nickerson dotting the agenda. We’re particularly looking forward to a talk from Matthew Sullivan in the opening session; he conducted a pivotal study on DNA size selection a couple of years ago that helped demonstrate the importance of sizing in the NGS workflow. Sullivan studies viral populations in the ocean and will no doubt have a really interesting story to share with AGBT attendees. We’re also eager to hear from Katia Sol-Church on day two of the conference. Sol-Church, a leader in the core lab community, will be speaking about the clinical work her lab has gotten involved in.

The Sage team will be glued to the sessions but eager to meet old friends and old-friends-to-be at the many networking events. We’ll also be co-sponsoring a party with PacBio on Friday evening at the golf course (the Fairway Lawn, in Marriott lingo). Join us for some drinks, swag, and a great time!

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This PAG Was One for the Birds (and Other Organisms, Too)

The 24th annual PAG meeting ended earlier this week, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves — as did just about every other attendee we encountered. The avian genomics community one-upped everyone else by going on bird-watching excursions and tweeting photos of their finds along with challenges to identify each species. (The Sage team was stumped!) Erich Jarvis’s great plenary talk on the neural circuits involved in vocal learning also put our feathered friends in the spotlight and had scientists atwitter with new research ideas.

We really enjoyed the Hi-C talk from Erez Lieberman Aiden from Baylor College of Medicine. He walked attendees through his hypothesis that DNA loops form by extrusion rather than diffusion, stopping at the CTCF motif in a certain direction. The analysis of 3D formation and folding of DNA has inspired scientists around the world to use this technique to better understand how proximity in space, rather than in linear sequence, affects gene expression.

The Sage team attended several excellent talks, but lots of attendee interest kept us at our booth most of the time. We loved hearing about the incredibly creative research going in on so many model organism communities, and it was terrific to see how many projects could benefit from automated DNA size selection. (If you didn’t get a chance to talk to a Sage member at PAG, please check out our SageELF and BluePippin pages to learn more about two of the instruments we offer for NGS users.)

Also, don’t forget that there’s still time to enter the new SMRT Grant program we’re co-sponsoring with PacBio. Tell us what makes your favorite organism’s genome so interesting, and the lucky winner will get a genome sequence on the house.

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On Our Way to the 24th Annual PAG Conference

We’re heading to San Diego this weekend, braving historic rain and mudslides for our favorite agbio conference: the International Plant & Animal Genome meeting, held January 9-13. Each year, thousands of scientists descend on the Town and Country hotel to share the latest research developments about model organisms, important crops, and more.

This year’s program is as strong as ever, with plenary talks coming from John Quackenbush, Erich Jarvis (we loved his presentation on Disco the parakeet at last year’s AGBT meeting), Jan Leach, and others. Concurrent sessions tend to be organism-centric, giving researchers a nice chance to catch up with their colleagues from other institutions.

The Sage Science team will once again be exhibiting at PAG — please stop by booth 422 to say hello. Our automated DNA size selection tools have proven quite useful for generating higher-quality genome assemblies and for analyzing gene expression, and we look forward to the opportunity to see whether they could be helpful for your research projects.

We’ll also be co-sponsoring the SMRT Grant program with Pacific Biosciences to award one lucky winner a genome sequence of an organism of interest (up to 10 SMRT Cells, with BluePippin size selection). Click here to learn more.

We hope to see you in San Diego!

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2015: A Look Back

People are starting to talk about their plans for New Year’s Eve, confirming a suspicion we’ve had for a while now: 2015 really is winding down! We can’t believe that 2016 is nearly upon us. As we try to remember the blur of the last 12 months, we’re taking stock of the highlights and trends that transpired. Here on the home front, the big news was how well our newest instrument, PippinHT, has done. Our customers have run tens of thousands of samples with PippinHT so far, and they show no signs of easing up.

Early this year, we put forth our theory that 2015 would be remembered as the year of long reads. With the momentum of Oxford Nanopore technology and the much-anticipated release of PacBio’s new Sequel System, it seems clear that long-read sequencing is no longer a niche approach. Numerous studies have shown that long-range DNA information is essential to building more accurate and complete genome assemblies, providing insight that isn’t available from other sequencing methods. Even researchers who haven’t switched to long-read sequencers are trying to incorporate long-range data into their studies; we’ve seen a lot more interest in mate-pair sequencing, as well as synthetic long-read technologies.

In 2015 we sponsored our first-ever podcasts with Mendelspod, and they’ve been a huge success. If you missed any of these great interviews with Bobby Sebra, Chris Mason, or Rod Wing, you should definitely spend your next commute tuning in. Mendelspod host Theral Timpson always does a good job of getting his interviewees to provide really interesting perspectives on trends in the industry.

As usual, the Sage Science team spent a good deal of time on the conference circuit this year. We loved getting to interact with friends, collaborators, and customers, and look forward to doing more of the same next year. You can catch our coverage of some of the big meetings here: ABRF, AGBT, ASHG, ASM, Festival of Genomics, and PAG. We also recapped our experience at the PacBio user group meetings here and here.

One of our favorite developments of the year was the publication of some great new protocols involving Pippin automated DNA size selection instruments from our customers. We particularly liked new mate-pair sequencing protocols (here and here), and this video protocol for methylation mapping.

Of course, Sage customers publish a lot more than protocols. There were too many terrific papers to list here, but if you have time for only a few, here’s what we recommend:

A better approach to microRNA biomarker discovery
A diploid human genome assembly
Targeted capture and sequencing of human structural variation

We even got to spend some time profiling a few of our customers this year. Many thanks again to our customers for taking the time, and we hope you enjoy these glimpses of their impressive work:

Amanda Chilaka, Whitehead Institute
Darren Heavens, The Genome Analysis Centre
Alex Maslov, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

And that’s a wrap for 2015! From everyone at Sage, we wish you a wonderful holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year.

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