Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a genome sequencing technology usually used for research purposes and applied in clinical diagnostics. NGS determines the order of nucleotides in entire genomes or targeted regions of DNA or RNA. It has been used for various clinical applications, such as disease diagnosis, prognosis, therapeutic decision, and follow-up of patients. In addition, the capacity of its massive parallel sequencing offers new opportunities for personalized precision medicine.
The emergence of the next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology led to a significant decrease in DNA sequencing costs, which made the technology accessible to scientists worldwide. NGS involves sample pre-processing, library preparation, sequencing, and bioinformatics. The library preparation step is critical in NGS workflow; however, it is still time-consuming and repetitive despite ongoing technical advancements in high-throughput sequencing. The library preparation step has numerous repetitive steps that require small volumes to be pipetted with high precision. This process makes it highly prone to manual errors, compromising the entire NGS process. The automation of library preparation can increase efficiency, generate more consistent results, and increase lab efficiency. NGS automation also helps maintain turnaround times and increase sample throughput.
In the first step of the generic NGS workflow, the nucleic acid sample is extracted from the specimen. In the library preparation step, DNA and RNA are prepared so that they can be processed and read by the sequencers. Generally, library preparation includes processes such as nucleic acid fragmentation, adapter ligation, and library quantitation. However, additional steps may be performed in different library preparation workflows. The libraries are loaded onto a flow cell and placed on the sequencer in the sequencing step, after which massive parallel sequencing is performed for all the DNA segments simultaneously using an NGS sequencer. The sequence information generated from the parallel sequencing is analyzed using bioinformatics software.
The manual workflows of NGS library preparation have several drawbacks as the library preparation step has numerous, repetitive steps that require small volumes to be pipetted with high precision. The high level of user input in this step might compromise the library quality and yield. The numerous manual steps of pipetting small volumes can introduce variability even among experienced scientists. Furthermore, manual workflows have multiple opportunities to introduce contaminations and errors. For instance, in the manual Illumina TruSeq Nano workflow, ten steps are required to attach adapters and barcodes to the nucleotides. The bead-based purification steps especially are highly prone to error since it involves manual handling of magnets and magnetic particles by the user.
The automation of NGS library preparation helps researchers improve their library quality and achieve consistent yields, enabling reliable and reproducible NGS data generation. NGS automation also enhances efficiency and cost reduction. The risk of contamination is also greatly reduced by limiting manual interaction with the reagents and samples. Therefore, the increasing demand for automation in NGS workflow is expected to drive the market for NGS automation.
Moreover, one of the major applications of NGS is in the drug discovery process in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Hence, the increasing R&D expenditure in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies supports the adoption of NGS automation. Pharmaceutical companies constantly focus on research and development (R&D) as it is a core aspect of drug development processes. The biotechnology industry is also expected to witness substantial growth due to increased investments in R&D to cater to the growing demand for innovation and new medical breakthroughs. The importance of R&D is evident due to the rising number of drug approvals. For instance, in 2020, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) approved 53 novel drugs, an increase from 48 novel drugs approved in 2019. High R&D investments in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector are expected to drive the NGS automation market due to its importance in drug discovery.
According to Meticulous Research®, the NGS automation market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.4% to reach $940.2 million by 2029.
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