automated sequencing

Donald A. Lehn donnel at helix.nih.gov
Sat Jun 15 20:42:43 EST 1991


In article <9106140059.AA13341 at genbank.bio.net> 21337MGR%MSU at ICNUCEVM.CNUCE.CNR.IT ("Jonathan.Walton") writes:
->My department is considering buying an automated DNA sequencer.  Some are
->enthusiastic ("The Time Has Come") but I've personally heard mainly negative
->things - too cumbersome, error rates too high, no net savings in time and
->money, etc.  Could I solicit from subscribers to this bulletin board that have
->had experience with automated DNA sequencing a summary of their experiences
->and opinions? Information about particular machines would also be very
->helpful.
->
->Thank you very much.
->Jonathan Walton (21337mgr at msu.bitnet)
->Plant Research Laboratory
->Michigan State University


I think anyone who invests in the current state of DNA sequencers is making
a big mistake.  We have an Applied Biosystems 370A sequence sitting in our
lab here at NIH and no one has yet to use it (although a few have tried). 
Simply put, this machine is too complicated for the average bench scientist
to use.  From what I have seen, in order for these instruments to be
sucessfully utilized, they "MUST" be run by a skilled technician.  If you are
planing on buying one of these macines,  you better also plan on having the
bucks to hire a technician whose sole mission in life is dedicated to 
maintaining and operating this instrument.  If you think that someone can walk
up to the machine and start sequencing with little effort, think again. 

In terms of saving time -- even if the instrument worked to its full potential,
I very seriously doubt whether it would save much time over traditional
sequence methods.  When our instrument was set up the A.B. tech. rep did
some sample sequences with M13.  After the run, he had to manually edit the
output base by base since about 5% of the nucleotides were listed as "N". This
editing took as long as it would take me to read AND edit (at the same time)
an autoradiogram.  In addition, while someone is editing a sequence on the
instrument, it can not be used for sequencing at the same time.

My advice for anyone who is doing a lot of sequencing is to invest in a half
dozen good sequence apparatus and hire a couple of good workers as technicians.
You will get the sequences just as fast.

Donald A. Lehn
NIH/NCI/DCE/LMC-Protein



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