News Headlines Article

The Virus Detectives
The New York Times

An old two-story brick building in a shabby part of town, formerly a distribution center for Budweiser beer, is now the world’s most powerful factory for analyzing genes from people and viruses.

And it is a factory. At any given time, 10,000 tiny test tubes each holding a few drops of gene-containing fluid are being processed by six technicians, working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — two on the night shift — using 50 dishwasher-sized machines in two large rooms.

The machines spit out sequence data onto a computer screen in the form of a long list, in order, of the letters that make up genetic material. That is three billion letters if the genes are from a person. Another 64 technicians do the more labor-intensive work of preparing the samples for analysis.