Illumina, Bio-Rad to roll out single-cell genome sequencing tool

Single-cell genome analysis allows researchers to better understand how individual cells work in heterogeneous cell populations. Image: Illumina

One year ago, Illumina announced it was teaming up with Bio-Rad Laboratories to develop a next-generation sequencing solution for single-cell analysis. The pair debuted the tool, which can help researchers create better models of disease, on Monday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

The partnership sought to enable high-throughput sequencing of vast numbers of individual cells, which has traditionally been challenging, expensive and time-consuming. The newly launched Illumina Bio-Rad Single-Cell Sequencing Solution is the first tool of its kind, allowing researchers to examine how single cells contribute to tissue function, disease progression and therapeutic response, according to a statement.

Traditional genomic analysis uses bulk samples of cells and averages gene expression over a population of cells. It is unable to assess the contribution of an individual cell in a complex network, said Kevin Taylor, senior manager, market development, complex disease at Illumina. Single-cell analysis can identify how individual cells play a role in complex processes in both human development and disease, he said.

“Single-cell genomics provides the opportunity to look at stem cells turning into neurons that are lost in diseases like Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) with much higher accuracy,” said Clive Svendsen, director of Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute in Los Angeles, in the statement.

The companies expect to start shipping the system next month. It uses Bio-Rad’s droplet partitioning technology to isolate and barcode single cells, which are then sequenced with Illumina’s NGS instruments, the companies said. The solution also includes primary and secondary data analysis conducted on BaseSpace, Illumina’s cloud-based genomics computing environment, and tertiary data analysis and visualization from FlowJo.

“By offering cell biologists access to technologies that make single-cell analysis cost effective and easy to adopt, we hope to enable scientists to advance complex disease research using gene expression insights,” said Rob Brainin, vice president and general manager of applied genomics at Illumina, in the statement. “Our collaboration with Bio-Rad has allowed us to bring this technology to market quickly and empower our customers to unlock the power of the genome to improve human health.”