Jonas Korlach & Steve Turner
talk with ScienceWatch.com and answer a few questions
about this month's New Hot Papers in the field of
Article Title: Real-Time DNA Sequencing from Single
Authors: Eid, J, et al.
Journal: SCIENCE, Volume: 323, Issue: 5910, Page: 133-138,
Year: JAN 2 2009
* Pacific Biosci, 1505 Adams Dr, Menlo Pk, CA 94025 USA.
* Pacific Biosci, Menlo Pk, CA 94025 USA.
Why do you think your paper is highly
The paper represents the "proof-of-principle" of the first third-generation
sequencing technology, arriving at a time when genomics is receiving
unprecedented attention overall.
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
The paper represents a new methodology which synthesizes discoveries in
other fields such as nanophotonics, nucleotide chemistry, surface
chemistry, enzymology, optics, and bioinformatics.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
The contents of an individual's DNA are largely responsible for all of an
individual's inherited characteristics. Humans differ widely in how their
health responds to the environment and to medical treatment.
"The cost-effective sequencing of entire genomes of
thousands to millions of individuals, as well as the rapid
availability of genetic information of other species, such
as pathogens and food crops, can bring about substantial
improvements in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of
Many of these differences are inherited and it is widely believed that
decoding the DNA blueprint will reveal these differences in a way that will
be essential to making medical care better and also more efficient.
Our paper describes a technology that will enable more complete information
to be extracted from DNA in less time and at lower cost than methods
How did you become involved in this research, and
were there any problems along the way?
This work began at Cornell University's School of Applied & Engineering
Physics in the late 1990s as a collaboration between the research groups of
Watt W. Webb and Harold G. Craighead. Both of us worked on the technology
as graduate students and postdocs before the technology development was
continued at Pacific Biosciences.
While we have had numerous challenges in managing the complex interplay of
a multidisciplinary project such as this, perhaps the most remarkable
aspect is how little the concept has changed since its conception in the
late 1990s. In bringing it to a commercial performance standard, there has
been tremendous investment in surface chemistry, polymerase enzymology, and
Where do you see your research leading in the
As with any advanced technology nearing commercialization, there are many
avenues for performance increase in the system, allowing sequencing to
become an increasingly powerful tool applied to medicine, food science,
biofuel development, waste remediation, forensics, and many other areas.
Research on improving the instrumentation to carry out these measurements
will continue, making these devices ever faster, smaller, and
The ability to eavesdrop on individual molecules carrying out fundamental
life processes in real time, which is the basis of our sequencing
technology, will not be limited to DNA sequencing, but will be applied to a
large number of enzymatic systems, bringing new light to many areas of
biology and medicine.
Do you foresee any social or political
implications for your research?
The cost-effective sequencing of entire genomes of thousands to millions of
individuals, as well as the rapid availability of genetic information of
other species, such as pathogens and food crops, can bring about
substantial improvements in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of
Equally important is the potential of DNA sequencing to improve food
production and quality, to enhance waste management, and also to create new
sources of clean energy, thereby influencing social structures across many
levels of society.
As with every technological advance, this has to be accompanied by
processes of education, ethical discussions, and political regulation in
order to maximize the benefits while minimizing possible misuse.
Jonas Korlach, Ph.D.
Menlo Park, CA, USA
Steve Turner, Ph.D.
Founder & Chief Technology Officer
Menlo Park, CA, USA Web