Being positive about Oxford Nanopore

In case you missed it, a Japanese team jumped the ship from Oxford Nanopore’s MinION early access program and published a paper and the data giving a negative picture about what Oxford Nanopore sequencing can do. If you are not following Oxford Nanopore, there is a good chance that you can take the paper at face value and believe that Nanopore can not get good enough.

Keith Robinson of OmicsOmics Blog has a nice blog post on the episode and beautifully explained why one should not take the paper seriously and remain upbeat about what Oxford Nanopore can offer. Go read that (and Mick Watson’s post ).

Here are a few more reasons to be positive about Oxford Nanopore.

The basic idea of Nanopore sequencing has been around for close to two decades (and may be more). Here is a company, Oxford Nanopore, that has made the idea a reality by coming up with a product. And the product is nothing like we have ever seen in the sequencing world. It is not bulky, it is not a desktop or a benchtop. It is a teeny tiny “mobile-top” sequencing product MinION that can let you sequence stuff on the go soon. Yes, the product became a reality two years late, but it is just two years in the large scheme of things.

Not only it came up with the product, but also democratized who can test the product. The early seqeuncing product MinION was not just confined to the walls of Broads, Sangers, and BGIs, but the Oxford Nanopore’s MinION early access program was open to anyone who is interested in it. There is a visual evidence for about 20 groups getting MinION and testing it. It is likely that 50-100 labs have got the opportunity to be part of the program and testing the early versions of MinIONs.

The idea that Oxford Nanopore opened the gates to general public is just mind blowing. Never heard of a company testing a physical product like this (other than Chromebook, but that is just a laptop). Thanks to the size of the sequencer, it made a lot easier to do it. Even then, one can easily imagine, it is such a challenging exercise.

It looks like Oxford Nanopore trusted the vast group of scientists and wanted them to take a stab at developing tools for the sequencer and how one can use the product innovatively. Barely a few months into the program, there are already two papers published presenting tools to deal with data from Nanopore sequencer. And pretty soon we will also have free data for everyone from a well done experiment.

The fact that the company opened up the alpha/beta/gamma testing to researchers, not the giant sequencing centers, suggests that Oxford Nanopore is pretty confident of what its technology can do. Even if the company had a slight hint that it might fail, why would it decide to do it publicly?.  That alone makes me say that Oxford Nanopore is for here to stay.

When a company tries to push the envelope to great heights like this, there will be a few hiccups along the way. Why fuss too much about it.

P.S. The above thoughts are from a fanboy, but not just a “Oxford Nanopore” fanboy, but also a “PoreBio” and “PoreSeq” fanboy (if that happens).


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