Kevin McCarthy, CTO for Danaher Motion, enthusiastically intoned visitors to "Lay your hand upon the sequencer.
In April 2007, McCarthy
arranged to give a presentation to members of Church's lab.
recalls: "My driver got lost on the way down, we had a hard cut off at 12 noon.
We got there late, and basically I had 15 minutes.
Stand and deliver.
Apparently I did!
It's been all uphill since then."
had argued that his
firm could dramatically improve the Church lab's existing design plans and engineering.
"For example, there was a $20,000 autosampler next to the instrument. 'What's that doing?'" McCarthy
"I think I can subsume that function and bring it inside the instrument in a much better way.
didn't meet Church himself until last August.
But six months later, the first Polonator was being shipped to the Church lab, with the Broad and Max Plank Institutes
The Polonator sells for $150,000 - a snip compared to other next-gen platforms - although McCarthy
concedes margins are small.
It contains many examples of Danaher engineering, such as motors and a Leica lens and objective, along with a specialized $25,000 electron-modifying CCD camera from Hamamatsu that McCarthy
says "is worth every penny."
says a high "level of obsession permeates this entire piece of hardware.
adds: "I can strip this machine down to raw hardware in about 15 minutes… It's eminently serviceable, and more to the point, eminently upgradeable."
Aside from cost, the other appealing aspect of the Polonator is Church's open-source approach.
"We're drinking the cool aid!
George is a visionary," McCarthy
"People were like, 'Look, I don't want to deal with all the [supplies],'" says McCarthy
agreed to produce kits, but is encouraging customers to seek better deals elsewhere.
says the Polonator currently uses a novel, low-cost PCR polymerase, a very low-cost ligase, "and all the fluors are license free - freedom fluors!"
Each of two flow cells contains 18 wells, which hold about 60 million DNA-coated beads, for a total of some two billion beads.
"As Carl Sagan says, that's a large number," jokes McCarthy
"One is undergoing biochemistry, while the other is being imaged.
A completely automated run takes about 80 hours, producing 10 gigabases of sequence per run.
Each read consists of 28 bases, 14 from each paired tag in every DNA fragment.
"That's just what we're going out of the gate with," says McCarthy
, but he
expects significant improvements in the near future.