SAN DIEGO — If DNA is the book of life, there’s a subplot around the race to read genetic information quickly, accurately, and cheaply. And the next chapter promises to be interesting.
Gene-sequencing giant Illumina announced during this year’s J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference that it plans to roll out a new technology in the latter half of 2022, dubbed Infinity, which will read DNA in far larger chunks than the firm has ever tackled before. It’s an approach that could help diagnose rare diseases and decipher parts of the human genome that have long remained a mystery to researchers.
The news was striking because the new technology isn’t so new. Known as long-read sequencing, it has been around for years but was seen as a niche market. Illumina became the world’s leading sequencing company by using short-read machines that made sequencing DNA fast and cheap and ubiquitous. So why is it jumping into the fray now? And what are the implications for its competitors and the vast and growing community of academic labs, hospitals, and biotechs that rely on sequencing?
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