Ion Torrent Announces Ion PGM Sequencer Grant Winners

Apr 27, 2010, 17:45 ET from Ion Torrent

GUILFORD, Conn. and SAN FRANCISCO, April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Ion Torrent today announced the winners of the Ion Personal Genome Machine (PGM™) Sequencer Grants.  These grants were given in honor of the pioneering work of Drs. James Watson and Gordon Moore, which inspired the creation of the Ion Torrent™ semiconductor sequencing technology.  This April marks the 57th anniversary of the publication of the double helix structure of DNA and the 45th anniversary of the publication of Moore's Law.  

"We received hundreds of grant applications across all areas of life sciences, environmental sciences and healthcare," said Jonathan Rothberg, CEO and founder of Ion Torrent. "The proposals leveraged the Ion PGM sequencer to address previously intractable scientific problems, critical clinical issues, and to better understand the forces acting on our environment and ways to mitigate them. The winning applicants offered innovative solutions in two areas of pressing social need today—human healthcare and the environment— reflecting the focus on healthcare and the environment that Watson and Moore each have had in their personal work."

Dr. James Watson Healthcare Grant

This grant was awarded to Drs. John Iafrate and Long Phi Le of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diagnostic Molecular Pathology Laboratory (DMPL), for broad-based cancer genotyping in a clinical setting.  Their goal is to develop a cancer diagnostic for routine clinical care by validating and testing a large array of mutations across all cancer types. This information will be used to guide physicians with respect to diagnosis, prognostication, and therapy selection.

"Large scale DNA sequence information has the potential to transform clinical decision making in cancer and other diseases, but there has not been a practical technology available for doing this," said Dr. Iafrate, director of DMPL.  "With sufficient speed, simplicity and affordability, semiconductor sequencing could generate actionable information in a clinical setting."

"After 57 years, we are beginning to realize the dream of DNA information enabling personalized cancer treatment," said Dr. James Watson.

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Dr. Gordon Moore Environment Grant

This grant was awarded to Dr. Mitchell Sogin, director of the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution.  His goal is to use Ion's semiconductor sequencing in clean water monitoring to accurately identify both the source and extent of water contamination.  Approximately 14,000 people die each day from contaminated water, making it one of the leading causes of death globally.

"DNA sequencing has always been the ideal choice for water monitoring, but the cost and time-to-result have been prohibitive," said Dr. Sogin. "Ion Torrent has the potential to make a huge impact in water quality, because it's so affordable and provides results so rapidly. This technology will ultimately lead to better water quality around the world and save lives."

"In the field of environmental public health, water quality remains an enormous challenge," said Dr. Jonathan Patz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007 for his work on climate change.  "Even in our developed United States, water-borne diseases are far more prevalent than people realize.  Tracing the sources of pollution so they can be eliminated, as Dr. Sogin proposes to do by the sequencing of DNA, has always been a weak link in our public health investigations that needs to be addressed."

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Complete Sequencing Solution

To complete the sequencing solution from initial problem statement to finished application, Ion Torrent has partnered with leading bioinformatics companies to provide Ion PGM users with turnkey bioinformatics software.  As part of their grant, the winning scientists will receive a perpetual license to the DNASTAR® SeqMan NGen assembly software and the CLC Genomics Workbench bioinformatics software.

Why Watson and Moore?

Watson-Crick pairing is the basis of the biochemistry underlying Ion Torrent sequencing. Moore's law has enabled the production of the Ion semiconductor sequencing chip with the unprecedented ability to scale both in density and cost—this is why Ion Torrent describes its sequencing efforts as Watson-meets-Moore.

About Ion Torrent

Ion Torrent has developed a DNA sequencing system that directly translates chemical signals (A, C, G, T) into digital information (0, 1) on a semiconductor chip. The result is a sequencing system that is simpler, faster, less expensive, and more scalable than any other technology available. Because Ion Torrent produces its proprietary semiconductor chips in standard CMOS factories, we leverage the $1 trillion investment that has been made in the semiconductor industry. Ion Torrent uniquely and directly benefits from four decades of exponential improvement in semiconductor technology, expressed as Moore's Law. Ion Torrent will launch the Ion Personal Genome Machine sequencer in 2010. Ion Torrent is based in Guilford, Connecticut with offices in South San Francisco. For more information about Ion Torrent, visit

Ion Torrent was founded in August 2007 by Dr. Jonathan M. Rothberg, who pioneered high-speed, massively parallel DNA sequencing.

About Dr. James Watson

Dr. James Watson is the retired president and chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Watson joined Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a director in 1968 and became president in 1994, holding that post for 10 years. He then became chancellor and retired in 2007. Dr. Watson is best known for the 1953 publication in the scientific journal Nature which described the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

About Gordon Moore:

Gordon E. Moore is the retired chairman and CEO of Intel Corporation. Moore co-founded Intel in 1968, serving initially as executive vice president. He became president and CEO in 1975 and held that post until elected chairman and CEO in 1979. He remained CEO until 1987 and was named chairman emeritus in 1997. Moore is widely known for "Moore's Law," in which in 1965 he predicted that the number of components the industry would be able to place on a computer chip would double every year. It has become the guiding principle for the semiconductor industry to deliver ever-more-powerful chips while decreasing the cost of electronics.

SOURCE Ion Torrent