The Nanopore Day, which was co-organized by NMBU researcher Christiaan Henkel and professor Finn-Arne Weltzien, attracted more than a hundred researchers from all over Norway, and featured presentations from renowned international experts and local users, as well as live product demonstrations.
Revolutionary analysis method
The meeting was opened by NMBU dean Anne Storset and Oxford Nanopore Technologies Vice President Richard Compton, who both highlighted the revolutionary nature of this DNA analysis method. Until very recently, DNA sequencing was an expensive, expert method that required dedicated technicians and labs. In contrast, the popular nanopore-based MinION sequencer is the size and cost of a small mobile phone, promising a near future in which genome analysis will be ubiquitous.
Nanopore technology works by guiding a DNA strand through a protein pore and measuring the changes this induces in an electrical current. From this signal, the genetic information in the DNA (the nucleotide sequence) is extracted. As this process requires no additional chemicals or detection technology, the MinION can be small, portable and affordable to run. In addition, as the data become available while the DNA is still being read, the molecules can be analyzed immediately, enabling real-time applications.
Use the technology for tracking and identifying bacterial infections
These strengths were convincingly illustrated by Ola Brynildsrud (Norwegian Institute of Public Health) and Nicholas Sanderson (Oxford, UK), who use MinION sequencers as rapid and portable diagnostics devices for tracking and identifying life-threatening bacterial infections. Roger Meisal (NMBU) explained how the MinION can even be used to teach sequencing and genome analysis to undergraduate students.
Possible to analyze large vertebrate genomes
Other speakers highlighted the opportunities for analyzing large vertebrate genomes, with implications for both clinical genetic diagnostics and animal research. Wigard Kloosterman (Utrecht, The Netherlands) casually announced that he has just sequenced his own genome on the brand new PromethION device. Matt Loose (Nottingham, UK) focused on the technology’s ability to read ultra-long pieces of DNA, which lead to vastly improved analyses, and NMBU researchers Matthew Kent and Christiaan Henkel described their respective efforts to sequence the genomes of several fish species.
Demontrations during the day
Divya Mirrington and Oliver Hartwell of Oxford Nanopore Technologies concluded the day with a practical overview of the technology’s capabilities, which together with demonstrations during the breaks encouraged many interested attendees to get started with nanopore sequencing.