Illumina Introduces Automated Library Preparation

February 23, 2015

By Bio-IT World Staff

February 23, 2015 | This morning, DNA sequencing company Illumina released a new product, NeoPrep, to work alongside its line of next-generation sequencers. NeoPrep is a benchtop device that automatically prepares a DNA or RNA sample for sequencing on Illumina instruments, usually a time-consuming manual process that involves shearing the sample into short fragments, repairing the fragment ends, and linking them to Illumina-specific adapter sequences to create a library of size-selected DNA molecules. Illumina's new instrumentation allows this work to be performed within the NeoPrep device, on a microfluidic cartridge called a NeoPrep library card, in which up to 16 samples in parallel can be processed through each step of the library prep process. While creating libraries will still take between four and eight hours using NeoPrep, lab technicians only have to be present at the very beginning and end of the process, allowing overnight runs and freeing scientists to spend less time on rote procedural work.

Illumina is not the only sequencing company trying to reduce the burden of sample preparation, which takes up the majority of scientists' hands-on time during next-generation sequencing. Competitor Ion Torrent, a subsidiary of Thermo Fisher Scientific, launched the Ion Chef device in early 2014 to automate a later step in the process, taking a prepared library, making copies of the DNA fragments, and loading the amplified library on chips for sequencing.

The NeoPrep, which is based on technology Illumina acquired with the company Advanced Liquid Logic in 2013, was originally slated for release last summer, but was pushed back for repeated user testing as the company aimed to consistently match the quality of libraries prepared by hand. In addition to library creation, NeoPrep also performs a few quality control checks, quantifying the DNA molecules to be sequenced and normalizing libraries for even coverage during sequencing. Illumina has launched the instrument with two reagent kits adapted from the company's TruSeq line: one based on the TruSeq Nano DNA kit for sequencing from small DNA samples, and one based on the TruSeq Stranded mRNA kit for measuring which genes are transcribed to RNA.