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More than 160 researchers and journalists from Mexico gathered to learn about the latest innovative offerings from Life Technologies, beginning with the Latin American launch of the Ion Proton Sequencer™ during a two-day event that included a press conference and a scientific briefing in Mexico City this week.

Journalists from television, radio and print outlets received an in-depth briefing of the Ion Proton Sequencer™, the first benchtop instrument designed to sequence an entire human genome in a day for $1,000. They were briefed on the many research applications for the new platform and the potential it has to accelerate scientific discovery in a variety of fields.

Distinguished scientists from Mexico, including Dr. Jose Tapia, Director of the Genetic and Molecular Biology Department, CINVESTAV, who is among the first researchers in the country to receive an Ion Proton, discussed the many areas in which such a platform can be applied.

“One important area is in stem cell research,” he said during the Wednesday morning press conference. “Researchers can easily sequence cells to ensure the right genetic markers are present in differentiated states.”

Dr. Patricia Ostrosky, Director of the Institute of Biomedical Investigations at UNAM, said the Ion Proton will be a valuable platform on which to better understand diseases specific to Mexico.

“We want to better understand diabetes in the Mexican population,” she said. “Ion technology will help us discover the relationship between our genes and the environment and how they contribute to obesity. We also want to study biodiversity, and this platform will be instrumental to compare a variety of species to tease out their genetic variations.”

Presenters also included representatives from Life Technologies, including Gianluca Pettiti, Head of Latin America; Sandra Balladares, Country Manager for Life Technologies Mexico, and Eric Vennemeyer, Associate Director, Americas Market.

Setting the stage for a market that until two years ago only offered much more expensive and slower sequencers, Pettiti and Balladares stressed the significance of the low-cost, fast and accurate Ion sequencing platforms. While light-based instruments cost upwards of $650,000 (Ion Proton is about one-third the cost) and can take at least two weeks to turn out data (Ion Proton can deliver data in one day), the Ion platform represents a major leap toward the democratization of DNA sequencing.

“We have condensed the $3 billion cost and 13 years it took to complete the Human Genome Project into one platform,” Pettiti said as he presented the Ion Proton.

“This technology was not available two years ago in Mexico,” Balladares said. “Now, Ion’s low-cost will accelerate cancer research in this country.”

In addition to an introductory overview of the Ion Proton at the scientific briefing, researchers received a sneak peak to Ion Avalanche, a new sample prep technology compatible with both Ion semiconductor sequencing platforms (Ion Proton, Ion PGM™) that eliminates emulsion PCR and clonally amplifies library molecules onto beads in just 30 minutes. Further insight into the new advances from Ion Torrent will be available at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) conference in San Francisco next month (Nov. 6-10).

Thursday’s scientific briefing also included presentations from scientists who have applied the Ion platform for a variety of research studies. Dr. Santiago Avila, investigator of Medical Sciences at CIENI-INER, demonstrated his lab’s use of the Ion PGM for studies that compared sequencing data from HIV samples obtained in Mexico, Panama and Guatemala.

His conclusions demonstrated the viruses’ genetic differences and diversification over time specific to their geographic regions. He showed similar comparative studies, also performed on the Ion PGM, with multiple samples of the H1N1 virus, including the 2009 outbreak strain. Interestingly, the data showed genetic similarities between Asian and Mexican strains, suggesting that newer strains in the region were likely carried over from the East.

Dr. Shawn Levy, researcher at the Hudson Alpha Institute, explained his research in immune cell transcriptional sequencing in cellular differentiation and disease, while Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., City of Hope and recent adopter of Ion AmpliSeq panels, discussed his lab’s adoption of genomic technologies in an effort to acquire genetic data to develop ancestry-informed, breast cancer risk assessment methods across the Latina population.

 “It is very exciting to see the growth of our customer base and adoption of Ion technology here in Mexico,” Balladares said. “The platform’s ease-of-use, low cost and the robust data it delivers make it an attractive solution for researchers who are working to accelerate their scientific discoveries at an unprecedented pace.”

Learn more about the Ion Proton Sequencer™.