CBS Tech: Meet Franklin

Though Watson and Crick invented the double helix model of DNA, it was Rosalind Franklin, the brilliant 1950s crystallographer, whose raw data inspired their revolutionary insight. The new Illumina HiSeq 2500 at the University of Minnesota Genomics Center now bears her name, and like her namesake, this mighty machine means business.

On the outside, Franklin looks like a mini-fridge. On the inside, coolant fans glow a calming gamer blue. Knots of wires and tubules dance from one end to the other. Millions upon millions of sequencing reactions occur per second as supercharged lasers and lenses work together to capture insane amounts of data.

Just how much data, exactly? Franklin generates an entire terabase of DNA sequence per each ten-day run—roughly the equivalent of 333 human genomes. Back in the 1950s, these sorts of numbers were unthinkable. Even today, it’s totally mind-blowing.

In addition to numerous clinical applications, Franklin helps researchers at the U get the data they need. Curious about their projects? Check out some of Franklin’s frequent users:

  • The Largaespada Lab is developing transposons to search for a cancer cure.
  • The Sadowsky Lab explores the genomes of microbes in our soil and waterways.
  • The Zarkower Lab investigates the genetic components of sex determination.

— Colleen Smith