Editorial Article: Trusted tools for overcoming next-generation sequencing (NGS) sample prep challenges

Eileen Dimalanta discusses the importance of reliable and trustworthy NGS products and addresses how to overcome current NGS workflow challenges

18 Mar 2021

Overcome sample prep challenges faced by next-generation sequencing (NGS) labs
Eileen Dimalanta, Associate Director of Applications and Product Development at New England Biolabs

Here, we speak with Eileen Dimalanta, Associate Director of Applications and Product Development at New England Biolabs, about the principal sample prep challenges faced by next-generation sequencing (NGS) labs dealing with a wide range of specimens, the importance of using quality oligonucleotides in an NGS workflow, and how New England Biolabs’ collaboration with MilliporeSigma is providing solutions to researchers at all stages of the NGS workflow.

Tell us about your work

ED: I’m responsible for directing product development efforts for the NEBNext line of products for NGS sample preparation. My team works closely with a variety of stakeholders, including customers, to develop novel, impactful solutions for a wide variety of NGS applications. This involves taking an idea, in many cases focused on novel enzymes with unique activities, and integrating these, along with other components into workflows that provide end-to-end solutions for our customers. 

New England Biolabs is committed to being a trusted resource and partner for the life science community. We leverage our expertise in enzyme discovery, engineering, and manufacturing to develop solutions that are impactful in driving discovery. A big part of this is working closely with our customers across end markets to understand their needs in order to focus our efforts on products and solutions that will have the highest impact on their research.

Why is it important to provide scientists with high-quality products and how do you achieve this?

ED: Our customers need to trust that the products they use from New England Biolabs can be treated as a control in their experiments, meaning that our products cannot be the source of variability, and must work as they are intended each time. This involves a deep understanding of our customers’ needs, and the development of careful functional assays that are sensitive enough to guarantee the necessary level of performance and reproducibility.

The first step in providing products our customers can trust is to ensure that we can measure the product performance effectively. In many cases, this has required increasingly higher-sensitivity assays to match the sensitivity of our customers’ applications. Once we can measure the product’s performance, the challenge shifts towards qualifying the material at multiple points in the process before it is released for sale.

What challenges are your customers currently facing?

ED: For many NGS applications, the breadth and number of samples being multiplexed at various stages in the workflows can be challenging for many labs. By aggregating the demand for oligonucleotide solutions and ensuring that the product is properly qualified for the workflows they are being employed in, we are providing a resource for the community that they can trust.

How has your collaboration with MilliporeSigma helped you overcome these challenges?

ED: As we manage the growing portfolio of products related to NGS sample prep, it is critical that we can trust the supply and quality of any materials, especially oligonucleotides. Having a partner that can reliably support our needs eliminates time-consuming rework cycles, and that ultimately allows us to get high-quality products to market faster. 

What are the key standout features of the NGS oligos?

ED: For both NEB and our customers, when it comes to oligonucleotides used in NGS workflows, it is all about quality. Knowing that the purity surpasses rigorous standards allows us to innovate on other aspects including product formatting, variations on oligonucleotide design, and incorporation into workflows that have discrete requirements.

What impact do you hope New England Biolabs will have in the future?

ED: We hope the impact continues along the same trajectory that it always has. Our goal is always to be a trusted partner of the scientific community. We are at an unprecedented inflection point for biology to have an enormous impact on human health, so the possibilities are limitless, but we believe by focusing on what we do well, and staying true to our core principles, the impact will be immeasurable.

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