What Does the Future Hold for Next Generation Sequencing?


Next generation sequencing (NGS) has been commercial for over a decade but started in the 1970s. Today, we are seeing this technology blossom. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NGS is transitioning from a DNA research tool to having real clinical applications. They estimate that more than 60 million people will undergo DNA sequencing by 2025.

The global market for NGS is growing, as well. In 2020, this industry brought in 5.9 billion dollars. The predictions are that by 2025, that number will grow to 23 billion dollars. So by 2030, the NGS market will likely reach 35 billion dollars. That is a compound annual growth rate of 18.2 percent from 2021 to 2023. What are some emerging NGS technologies, and why do we see an escalation in use?

The Whys Behind NGS Growth

The reason for the growth spurt focuses on two key factors:

  • Reduced cost
  • Increased ease of use

Both of these are signs of improved NGS technology.

Short-Read Sequencing

The advancements started in 2013 with the Ion Torrent technology. Ion Torrent is a semiconductor-based system that detects hydrogen ions. Although it allowed researchers to do more, it still is a short read technique, meaning it can only read 400 bases. That limitation makes it difficult, therefore more expensive, to find unique sections of code. On the other hand, long-read tech increased the usefulness of next generation sequencing.

Long-Read Sequencing

Around the same time, companies were working on long-read sequencing techniques. While they can read more blocks, they tend to be less accurate than the short-read modalities. Within the last decade, that changed with the addition of HiFi.

HiFi reads use Single Molecule, Real-time Sequencing technology to immobilize DNA molecules. This technology can read thousands of bases with an accuracy rate comparable to short-read sequencing.

In addition, long-read sequencing allows the routine assembly of diploid genomes. This means a better understanding of human genetic variation and disease.

Sequencing By Synthesis (SBS)

SBS is a next generation sequencing technology that provides the majority of NGS data today. It is also mainly responsible for the drop in cost and increase in sequencing speed. SBS can sequence trillions of bases in one study. It uses a DNA sequencer to automate the process and determine the order of the bases.

The Future of NGS

The future is in finding new ways to apply this technology. For many researchers, that means cancer diagnostics.

For example, Illumina provides a TruSight Oncology 500 kit that reports mutations found in solid tumors. The ultimate goal is to provide next-generation sequencing that is easy for non-specialists to use. NGS developers see a day when any lab can run it. The current generation of the technology takes just 10 minutes from sample to report.

At some point, NGS will be a routine test for cancer patients and those with rare diseases. It could become a standard test for newborns, as well. It may also be the future of infectious disease monitoring. It was an intricate part of monitoring the Covid pandemic and virus surveillance. It was crucial to understanding the variants and how they spread within communities.

NGS has been around for some time, but the technology is just getting started.