The Future of Sequencing in Silicon Valley

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Those working in (or reporting on) the fascinating fields of genomics and personalized medicine will have no shortage of conferences to attend in early 2014, including the increasingly important JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco; the annual Advances in Genome Biology and Technology (AGBT) meeting on Florida’s Marco Island in February; and Eric Topol’s superb gathering next March, The Future of Genomic Medicine, held on the Scripps campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The meeting I’m most looking forward to, however, is the 6th Annual Personalized Medicine World Conference (PMWC), to be held on January 27th and 28th in Silicon Valley. This event has flourished in recent years, offering a magnificent opportunity to meet and hear from world-renowned experts at the forefront of genomics, molecular diagnostics and personalized medicine.

The overarching theme of PMWC 2014 is: The Arrival of Actionable Personalized Medicine: The Age of Guided Disease Management. The opening session includes discussions featuring personalized medicine luminaries including Brook Byers, Randy Scott, Lee Hood, and NHGRI director Eric Green. I expect vigorous debate of pressing issues including the impact of the Supreme Court’s gene patent decision, the development of targeted therapies in cancer and neurological disorders, as well as regulatory and reimbursement trends.

PMWC 2014 will also showcase the remarkable pace of implementation of next-generation sequencing (NGS) in a clinical context, as the cost of a full genome sequence has plunged to just a few thousand dollars. Diagnostic companies and medical centers are now routinely offering comprehensive genome analysis, as evidenced by the recent report from Christine Eng and colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine in the New England Journal of Medicine on the first 250 patients studied using whole-exome sequencing.

On the eve of PMWC 2014, the conference organizers are hosting a special event to honor Jay Flatley, CEO of Illumina. Since the acquisition of the British biotech company Solexa in 2007, Illumina has been a dominant leader in NGS technology.

But Illumina and the rest of the NGS field are bracing for another seismic event as exciting new technologies, led by nanopore sequencing, are poised to emerge. Just a few weeks ago, I was privileged to attend a live demo of Oxford Nanopore’s new MinION sequencer, as portable as a smartphone, along with a couple of dozen sequencing experts. Judging from the enthused reaction of the assembled guests, I would anticipate a commercial launch sometime in 2014.

So there will be plenty to talk about when, on Day 2 of PMWC 2014, I’ll be moderating a special panel discussion – Killer apps, genome interpretation and the future of NGS – featuring five outstanding authorities in DNA sequencing. The panelists include Stanford University’s Steve Quake, the co-founder of Fluidigm and Helicos; Michael Hunkapiller, chief executive of Pacific Biosciences (and formerly of Applied Biosystems); Cliff Reid, the founding CEO of Complete Genomics, now part of BGI; Stefan Roever, CEO of nanopore sequencing start-up Genia Technologies; and Maneesh Jain, who handles business development at Ion Torrent.

One of the panelists suggested – not entirely tongue-in-cheek — that we subtitle the session: Will anyone succeed in knocking Illumina off its perch? I suggest you book a place at PMWC 2014 and find out!

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 Look for additional posts from speakers and participants prior to the 6th Annual Personalized Medicine World Conference on January 27-28, 2014. 

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