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MGI Announces $100 Genome; Illumina Files Patent Suit



By Bio-IT World Staff  

February 27, 2020 | MGI got some attention with its presentation this week of the $100 genome. Among the feedback, a patent infringement suit from Illumina relating to the “CoolMPS” sequencing products.

On Wednesday, MGI’s chief scientific officer and co-founder of Complete Genomics, Rade Drmanac, gave the closing presentation at AGBT. Drmanac announced that thanks to its CoolMPS chemistry and the company’s Tx sequencing platform MGI can deliver a human genome for $100 in the cost of reagents and expects to scale that further down.

MGI—the subsidiary of BGI Group formerly known as Complete Genomics—made several market clearance announcements earlier this year for its sequencers. Its DNBSEQ-T7, DNBSEQ-G400 and DNBSEQ-G50 sequencers are now cleared in European countries recognizing the CE-IVD mark and ready to position in clinical settings. Last week the company announced the commercial availability of its sequencing instruments and reagent kits in the United States based on MGI’s own innovative CoolMPS sequencing chemistry, starting in April of this year.

The DNBSEQ-Tx is less a new sequencing instrument and more of, “a concept which can be realized in many ways,” wrote Keith Robison, Ph.D. on his well known Omics! Omics! blog after seeing a preview of the system. MGI has done away with most of the structure of a traditional sequencer, relying instead on carefully choreographed robotic arms to dip silicon wafers studded with DNA nanoballs in reagents and then image the results.

The system saves costs by reducing reagent use and increasing the density of DNA nanoballs.

“Maybe Tx won't be the vanguard of a new generation of sequencer design—too strange, too far-out, too outside the mainstream of design,” Robison writes. “But it's certainly fun to watch both the instrument run and how the rest of the sequencing industry responds to this radical rethink of how to execute the cyclic chemistry and optical imaging which dominates the genomics world. 

Contentious Chemistry

The DNBSEQ-Tx system uses the MGI CoolMPS technology, an antibody-based chemistry that avoids DNA "scars" that can accumulate with traditional sequencing methods and affect the accuracy of subsequent reads. CoolMPS introduces unlabeled nucleotides and four fluorescent labeled antibodies in its sequencing process to recognize the incorporated bases, the company describes. In this new process, the natural scarless bases are added in each sequencing cycle, enabling more accurate and longer reads. The advantages of CoolMPS include: a stronger signal and higher signal-to-noise ratio, no signal quenching and base scarring, less systematic sequence-based errors, and significantly better cycle-completion performance enabling longer MPS reads, the company argues. 

But the day after the announcement, Illumina announced a patent infringement suit in California court relating to BGI’s “CoolMPS” sequencing products. The suit lists three patents that cover Illumina’s proprietary sequencing-by-synthesis chemistry. “BGI has brazenly copied Illumina’s proprietary sequencing chemistry,” said Charles Dadswell, SVP and General Counsel for Illumina, in a statement.

Earlier this month, Illumina filed for a preliminary injunction to try to prevent MGI from distributing sequencers in the US. Last month, Illumina filed patent infringement suits against BGI in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Illumina had previously filed patent infringement suits against BGI in March, May, and June 2019

For its part, Complete Genomics sued Illumina in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware in May 2019, alleging infringement of Complete Genomics’ two-color sequencing technology patent (U.S. Patent No. 9,222,132), which involves various Illumina genetic sequencers and related reagents, and in September 2019 alleging infringement of MGI's proprietary Patterned Array technology.

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