Illumina MiSeq System

The Problem

Illumina's flagship sequencing instrument, HiSeq 2000, was wildly successful in larger genome centers, but it was too powerful and expensive for smaller labs wanting to do sequencing on a smaller scale. Th HiSeq 2000 sequencing workflow, while functional, was also not suited to the types of customers Illumina was hoping to capture with the lower-end MiSeq instrument.

The Process

I was in labs doing ethnographic research with scientists in my first week at Illumina to make sure I understood their needs and their workflow well enough to build them something great. I visited with customers already familiar with HiSeq as well as those using a much older technology called capillary elecrophoresis (which the MiSeq was intended to supplant).

Realizing that these smaller lab customers would need a more streamlined interface, I started mapping out the workflow (both with the instrument software and with the physical reagents the user would need to handle to operate the instrument)

View a PDF of the specification

One of the main realizations I had as I was trying to optimize the software was that there were difficulties outside of the scope of my responsibility. I got involved with the mechanical engineering and industrial design reviews to ensure that there was a voice for the user when down-select decisions for concepts were being made.

I also requested and got support for development of an ancillary software package that a scientist could use to easily create a sample sheet with run instructions. This was needed because the users I observed using HiSeq during research were typically entering the information into the machine from a laminated sheet that had been created for that purpose.

The Outcome

MiSeq successfully brought sequencing technology to a whole new market of customers while also providing a platform for larger genomics labs to do more quality control and application development on the MiSeq. It was the first instrument of it's kind to bring next-generation sequencing to the benchtop and it still leads the market to this day in its category.

When I visited labs after launch to do usability testing with the MiSeq, one of the users gave me the best compliment I could imagine: "It almost seems too easy!"

Watch a video about the MiSeq