PacBio and RainDance partner up in a match made in genome assembly heaven

Pacific Biosciences and RainDance Technologies have entered into a co-development and co-mareting agreement to commercialise novel solutions for de novo whole genome assembly.

The combination of PacBio’s long read technology and RainDance’s digital droplet technology and molecular barcoding is a formidable prospect. Potentially this could provide a method to generate millions of long, single-molecule barcoded DNA fragments, averaging 10-30 kilobases that originated from much longer fragments of around 100 kilobases.

The long reads that PacBio are known for already make genome assembly a little bit easier, when compared to short reads. Adding in the labeling made possible by RainDance Technologies, should make it even easier, eliminating the problems posed by areas rich in repeats.

“Today, the research community is limited to technologies that ‘shred’ genomes into tiny fragments before sequencing, using computational power to assemble a genome scaffold,” said Dr. W. Richard McCombie, Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “This is inefficient and error-prone. The addition of longer range sequencing information would provide even better assemblies with precise location in context. Moreover, by barcoding long fragments prepared from individual molecules, we could also get haplotype phasing information across much longer stretches of the genome assemblies.”

Dr. Michael Hunkapiller, President and CEO of Pacific Biosciences, commented: “The strength of RainDance’s proprietary technology, patent position and commercialization experience in droplets was fundamental to our decision to enter into this collaboration. We chose to work with RainDance because they are the market leader in droplet-based target enrichment and are rapidly expanding into innovative sequencing applications for long reads and single cells.  While our customers can already get industry-leading de novo genome assemblies with just PacBio, the addition of even longer-range sequencing information would provide even better assemblies.”

Roopom Banerjee, RainDance Technologies’ President and CEO, added: “This collaboration underscores the power of our proprietary droplet technology to help enable even higher quality de novo genome assembly to enhance our understanding and interpretation of the genetic basis of disease. This initiative demonstrates our commitment to continuously pushing the innovation frontier in droplet technology and sequencing applications.”

It’s also worth mentioning that the collaboration is aware of another challenge facing researchers. DNA samples aren’t endless, and can often be hard to get. So apart from making genome assembly much easier, they will also design their method to work with low DNA input (as little as 1ng).

Both companies have been gaining in popularity on their own merits. This union should come as very welcome news.