Celebrating a decade of innovation: reflecting on London Calling and the future of nanopore sequencing

By Gordon Sanghera, CEO, Oxford Nanopore Technologies

When we held our first London Calling conference in 2015, the world was a different place. Adele topped the music charts, Barack Obama was the leader of the free world, and my team, the New England Patriots, had clinched the Super Bowl.

Back then, our community was small but passionate. We had 178 attendees at our inaugural event, a mighty 13 publications, and a lot of enthusiasm despite our modest beginnings. Each attendee received a MinION sequencer in their swag bag, setting the tone for our journey ahead.

Today, our 10th annual London Calling conference welcomes over 600 pioneering genomics scientists in person, with another 4,000 joining us online. I’m also excited to welcome our first clinical and biopharma day on Friday – a testament to the growth and opportunity of nanopore sequencing in the clinical space. Today, our platform has 7,600 active users and more than 13,000 peer-reviewed publications. Our technology has evolved dramatically, from a throughput of 30 bases per second to 420, and from 94-96% raw read accuracy to 99%.

Since those initial members of the MinION Access Programme (MAP) started sequencing their first runs in 2015, the MinION has made tremendous gains in achieving our ambitious vision to enable the sequencing of anything, by anyone, anywhere. Over the past decade, our community of innovators has exceeded our wildest expectations, demonstrating the power and potential of real-time, accessible sequencing, from the International Space Station to the depths of the ocean. In the Tanzanian jungle, for instance, Massimo Deladone identified a new species of miniature frogs, while in Antarctica, researchers are exploring new frontiers of genomic discovery.

The global pandemic underscored the critical importance of rapid genomic insights. Our nanopore pioneers, Nick Loman and Josh Quick, were instrumental in sequencing the Ebola genome in the field, and when SARS-CoV-2 emerged, they were among the first to sequence the virus, providing invaluable data to the scientific community. The ARTIC network they helped establish has been pivotal in tracking and understanding the virus’ evolution.

Looking forward, we stand at the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where the integration of physical, digital, and biological technologies is driving unprecedented advancements. Oxford Nanopore fuses these together, creating a genomic engine of innovation. For the 10 years since we put the MinION in those swag bags, I’ve sat awake thinking about the unrealised potential of this platform. Back then, we knew everything was contained within the signal, but we did not have tools sophisticated enough to decode it. Today, we can now sequence the most accurate, richest genome on the planet, combining our ability to detect everything from small variants to methylation, empowering the multiomics era and usher in the next revolution of innovation.

Our community of genomic explorers is the crucible that will forge this revolution, building the next biological bridge to a future where data-driven insights will create the internet of living things, enhancing the health and wellbeing of living systems on this planet and beyond. We are building a future where genomic data unlocks new possibilities for next-gen diagnostics capable of spotting the world’s biggest killers before they have a chance to take hold, therapeutics for what is currently untreatable, and harnessing our genetic individuality to deliver personalised medicine that will transform the way we approach healthcare.

I am awe-struck by the progress we’ve made together, but we are far from done. We will continue to innovate. We will push our barriers, shed our skins and create new platforms. As we embark on the next decade, we remain committed to empowering you — the innovators, partners, and scientists — who are shaping the future of genomics. Together, we will provide affordable, accessible genomic information that can transform healthcare, industry, and the world.