We just had a suboptimal run on our 454 intrument in which the modal read length was closer to 200 bp than 400 bp. We are relative newcomers to the game, so our first thoughts were that we had done something wrong. But after racking our brains, we couldn’t think of anything, so we presented all our data to Roche and were a bit surprised when they offered to replace the kit without any quibbling. Then we received a message saying that the delivery for an order for more kits was going to delayed for three weeks
At first, we didn’t make a connection between the two problems, but several other sequencing centres have also been experiencing similar problems, so one has to assume that Roche has had a problem with their production line, which would also provide the most parsimonious explanation for the supply problem. I have to say we are disappointed here in Birmingham that Roche have not been upfront about this issue, particularly as it is unclear what has been causing the problem and whether it is ongoing or has been sorted. And the cynic in me worries that small users like us are last in the queue, behind all the big centres, when new batches of acceptable reagents come off the production line.
What is also troubling is the idea that a lot of other small centres are also suffering in silence with this issue, not realising that poor performance is nothing to do with anything they have or have not done wrong.
Don’t get me wrong—I think 454 is a wonderful technology that makes things possible that we could have only dreamt about a few years ago! But on this issue, Roche could easily go from heroes to zeroes pretty quickly. And in case you wouldn’t expect full disclosure from them, check out this article from Wired from a few years back: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.04/wired40_ceo.html
If you too have been suffering in silence, drop us a comment to let us know! And Roche, if you want to let the world know what’s going on, feel free to add a comment.