Thanks to this article from Wired Enterprise, today’s Friday Video is about a really unusual ASIC application. A company named Oxford Nanopore has developed a DNA sequencer that fits in an oversized USB stick and will sell for $900. The device is called the MinION and the claim is that it can read the entire human genome—that’s about three billion base pairs—in a day. Powered off the USB port.
According to the article, the electronic heart of the Oxford Nanopore MinION is “a specialized processor—known as an ASIC” and that’s how my search agents found this article for me. I’ve looked at the information and the heart of this product is an artificial “bespoke” protein nanopore embedded in a synthetic membrane. That’s the artifact that does the magic. The ASIC takes the product of the nanopore, the molecules and DNA bases flowing through the nanopore, and makes electrical measurements that identify the molecule or base.
I was mesmerized by the following animation that shows how the nanopore unzips the DNA molecule and feeds it through the silicon instrumentation:
Here’s a video with a bit more background on the overall development: