The Genomic Breadlines

August 1 2017 - Gabor Bethlendy

I grew in communist Hungary and moved to the United States at the age of eight. How we got here is an interesting story better left for another article. Point being that most kids growing up in the US had chores of taking out the garbage or similar. However, mine was riding my bike to the only store in town to stand in the bread line. My reward for this was often a Coke I could by at the bar next door. The year was 1975 and for me and my brother this was completely normal and in some ways an adventure to try and get the best bread. It is somewhat ironic that after 40 years in the US I find myself starting a company focused on solving a very similar issue, but in genomics. Oppressive and grey? No, growing up under communism was the happiest time of my life

Bread and next-generation sequencing are actually very similar businesses and as such manifest very similar problems. Both are abundantly available, yet both resist the notion they are “commodities.” Both require a few simple ingredients with a very dedicated working team who all claim they are the best at sour dough or chip seq. Now I am not arguing that both do not require a simple yet meticulous attention to detail. However, being skilled in the art of bread making or genomics assumes one critical thing! That just because it is so rare to find a good bread or good quantitated library prep that that in and of itself is enough to make it available to the masses. It is not the case as when I arrived to the front of the bread line I was always amazed to see that the shelves were mostly full! How could this be when there seemed to be plenty of workers handing out bread? When we visit academic or commercial genomic facilities we see the same things. Plenty of lab technicians, plenty of instruments, yet the freezers are full of partially filled boxes of various types of prepped libraries…all waiting to get on one or another instrument at some yet to be determined date. This is the modern version of the breadline, folks with advanced degrees waiting for science to happen completely out of their control. The demise of the Genomics Breadline will come once all scientific equipment, including NGS, is organized and accessible in one place. No we don’t mean a Google search that results in a list of service providers! Those lists are not actionable and don’t speed up or decrease the cost of science. We mean the ability to know where every single scientific instrument is (@MeentaNGS) in the world with the ability to book time on them! Until then we will have to know by tribal knowledge which shops have good bread and good library preps, without the lines!

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