Number of Ion Community Users Triples, Spurred by Open Access to DNA Sequencing Protocols and Analysis Software

Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE) today announced that membership in the Ion Community, the online open-access resource for Ion Torrent users and developers, has tripled to 5,000 people in just three months. The sudden jump in membership began after Ion Torrent published its sequencing protocols, analysis software and datasets for the Ion Personal Genome Machine™ (PGM™), the world’s first benchtop sequencer, on Sept 30thof this year.

The Ion Community, which was established in March, has grown by about 150 new members a week and is expected to reach 10,000 members in 2012. Most of the community members are either current Ion Torrent users, people who want to learn more about the system by reviewing the datasets and protocols, or developers working on novel applications.

“The amazing growth of the Ion Community underscores the huge demand there is in the scientific community to work with an open access platform and participate in how that platform develops,” said Ion Torrent Founder and CEO Dr. Jonathan M. Rothberg. “Sharing information will accelerate the development of Ion semiconductor sequencing and inevitably drive breakthroughs in fields including medicine, energy and agriculture.”

Eric Olivares, founder of SEQanswers, the most popular online sequencing community, said: “The Ion Community has embraced the same principles that have driven the growth of SEQanswers: unrestricted access to information, protocols, and inter-user communication. In a rapidly evolving field where hardware, analysis algorithms, and wet-lab methods change monthly, I am excited to see a major technology provider embrace openness and acknowledge that their users will drive innovation on the platform.”

New Life Grand Challenges Dataset

Ion Torrent also released its next round of benchmark data for the Life Grand Challenges competition. Participants are challenged to drive performance improvement of the Ion PGM sequencer in three areas: sample preparation, base yield and accuracy. To win the $1 million prize in any of these three categories, participants must beat the internal record at Ion Torrent by two-fold, through their own protocol improvements between January and March of 2012.

The latest Grand Challenges E. coli dataset exhibits a average read length of 241 bp and high quality, (Q20) reads as long as 318 bp. An Ion 318™ chip was used, generating 1.27 Gb of data. All participants must now use the Ion 318 chip, which delivers 100-fold more data than the initial 10 Mb specification of the Ion 314™ chip, giving participants room to achieve the new benchmarks. Raw voltage data and a cloud-based computing environment are available by registering for the Life Grand Challenges on the Ion Community. Entries for this round of the Life Grand Challenges close on Mar. 15, 2011

To win the challenges, participants must match or exceed these specific benchmarks:

  • Scalability: A total of 2.54 Gb must be sequenced, twice the recorded 1.27 Gb
  • Speed: Sample preparation must be reduced to four hours, from the current six hours.
  • Accuracy: The accuracy rate must increase to 99.5, or one error per 200 base pair reads, from the documented 99 percent accuracy of 2011.

“I believe the Accuracy Challenge is achievable – in fact I came close to the benchmark earlier in the year — because it only requires a computer and an idea,” said Monkol Lek, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney, who performs technical work with Ion PGM System data and writes the BioLektures blog. “Life Technologies has generously provided a wealth of resources in the form of data sets, source code and analysis tools available through the Ion Community. The improvements in the Torrent Suite software have demonstrated improving accuracy is composed of common problems in which standard techniques can be applied.”

The benchmarks and other information are available at the Ion Community website. Members and others can follow the Grand Challenges on Facebook and Twitter and hear Blog Talk interviews at blogtalkradio.

RecognitION program

Ion Torrent also announced that it has given away $20,000 and four boxes of Ion 316™ chips as part of the new RecognitION program, which acknowledges users’ unique and valuable contributions to the Ion Community. RecognitION distributes points to those who participate in the community and the points are redeemed for rewards ranging from a T-shirt to an iPad to a free Ion PGM Sequencer. Users who accumulate 150,000 points win an Ion PGM Sequencer and a paid trip to a scientific conference.

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About Life Technologies Corporation

Life Technologies Corporation is a global biotechnology company dedicated to improving the human condition. Our systems, consumables and services enable researchers to accelerate scientific and medical advancements that make life even better. Life Technologies customers do their work across the biological spectrum, working to advance the fields of discovery and translational research, molecular medicine, stem cell-based therapies, food safety and animal health, and 21st-century forensics.

The company manufactures both molecular diagnostic and research use only products. Life Technologies’ industry-leading brands are found in nearly every life sciences lab in the world and include innovative instrument systems under the Applied Biosystems and Ion Torrent names, as well as the broadest range of reagents with its Invitrogen, GIBCO, Ambion, Molecular Probes and TaqMan® products. Life Technologies had sales of $3.6 billion in 2010, has a workforce of approximately 11,000 people, has a presence in approximately 160 countries and possesses one of the largest intellectual property estates in the life sciences industry, with approximately 3,900 patents and exclusive licenses. For more information on how we make a difference, please visit