On the Oxford nanopore MinIon Access ProgramLet’s say you hear about this company that claims to have a revolutionizing clothes washer, and you get to try it out! For a refundable $1000, they will ship you a washer, and they have plenty of their special washing powder available, which they will happily sell to you. The thing is, though, the company hasn’t shown anyone how good it actually works, how fast it works, and how clean your clothes will become. Not just that, once you have the washer, you’ll need to first use it on dirty clothers they will send you, and you’ll have to send them back the results. Also:
Only after achieving “consistent and satisfactory performance” with the test samples will participants be allowed to run their own [clothes]
Would you buy that washing machine? I guess not.
Oxford Nanopore, the company that made such a splash anouncement in February 2012 about their fantastic new sequencing instrument, thinks differently. At the annual meeting of the The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) in Boston this week, the company announced the ‘MinION Access Programme’. This program allowes interested researcher to buy the hand-held Minion sequencing device for a refundable $1000 and test it out. First,
participants will go through an initial restricted ‘burn-in’ period, during which test samples will be run and data shared with Oxford Nanopore. (source)
After that, participants can run their own samples (see the first quote in this post, which is also from the same announcement).
Ever since the first announcement of the MinIon and GridIon, the community has been asking for, and becoming more and more frustrated with, the lack of real Oxford Nanopore sequencing data to look at. Most sequencing companies (admittedly, not all…) happily share their latest and greatest reads for the community to tear apart. But Oxford Nanopore just trusts us to believe the hype and buy into this early access program. Reports on twitter indicate some researchers – and even a bioinformatician – were able to run the MinIon at ASHG. But still NO DATA was available after these runs.
On paper, the MinIon looks great, and I have no evidence that the MinIon will not produce great data, and sure, our centre will apply (you don’t want to miss out on this one! hypocritical, I know…). But why oh why does Oxford Nanopore refuse to let us have a peek at what comes out of what they themselves believe is such a great system.
Blogger Nick Loman called the MinIon Access Program a ‘Golden Ticket’, but in the book/movie, this ticket was hidden in products that people loved and knew were very good, and the ticket gave a few kids access to the factory. Is the MinIon Access Program more like ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, with all of us acting like the emperor?