DNA Sequencing

The idea for the Human Genome Project was picked up in 1984 and heralded a period of concentrated activity with the aim of sequencing the entire human genome. DC Allen was asked to develop the electronics and software for the EG&G (subsequently Perkin-Elmer) Biomolecular Acugen 402 DNA sequencer, an early automated DNA sequencer based on radionucleotide detection. The project ran from 1986 to 1991.

The electronics was based on a 16-bit microprocessor architecture with a separate dedicated processor-based intelligent graphics processor. Custom hybrids were designed to amplify the radionucleotide beta particle signals which were fed to a 16-channel counter subsystem.

The embedded software was written entirely in the C programming language using an in-house developed C compiler. The signal processing software was PC-based and used a number of techniques to extract the base sequences from the raw signal data, including maximum entropy and Wiener filtering, deconvolution and neural networks.