Government surplus DNA Sequencer, $200 to a good home

Jon found this $200 DNA sequencer on GovDeals, a site listing government surplus equipment. He notes, "I figured I should share this so that maybe some do-gooder out there might be able to use the device to better humanity or their personal cause and hopefully keep Dr. Moreau types away."

Buyers must complete the (FDA) Certification Section below before scheduling the removal of any Medical & Dental Equipment Device from UMB property. The completed and signed form along with any supporting licenses/documentation must be faxed to: UMB Surplus Property, Attn: Larry Butler (410) 706-0759.

FDA CERTIFICATION Section “A” Portion is for a Licensed Medical Professional. Section “B” Portion is for Resellers.

Perkin Elmer Genomyx LR DNA Sequencer


  1. It’s a gel electrophoresis system for using radioactively labeled nucleotides, after which the gel can be dried and exposed to film or to phosphorimager. As such, it was obsolete when I was an undergrad operating my lab’s sequencer twenty years ago (radioactive sequencing had been struggling to compete with fluorescently labeled primers, and affordable four-color fluorescent dye terminators effectively ended the contest), and it became really obsolete a decade or so ago, when the dominant technology shifted from gel electrophoresis to capillary sequencing. It’s also important not to confuse any of these approaches with so-called “next-generation sequencing”.

    Basically: it’s dirt cheap,but that’s because it’s a good twenty years out of date, and probably no-one should buy it. I don’t even know whether someone buying it could get ahold of the radioactive nucleotides it would require (they’re actually very cheap, but they’re heavily regulated), the film might be hard to get these days and isn’t cheap, and the technology is decades out of date.I doubt it’s been used for at least a decade; indeed, I suspect the reason it’s being sold now is that it’s finally been officially ruled as decontaminated, probably because there have been a dozen or more S35 half-lifes since it was last officially commissioned for use.

  2. I’m essentially in agreement with Warren_Terra here: this is incredibly cheap because it’s old enough that using it would be pointless. Actually, I’d say the $200 price for this is rather high; the government should be happy to be able to give it away rather than pay for its disposal.

    Even as far back as 2003, we couldn’t find buyers for ABI 377s that were much better and easier to use than this sequencer; we had around 15 of them and I don’t we would have been able to get more than $1,000 each or so. With ten years of progress after that, I’d expect 377s and the like are less than $200, especially since major sequencing projects in the late 90s and early 00s used huge numbers of them. 

    It’s worth noting that some processes, like oligonucleotide synthesis and sequencing, are largely commoditized now if you’re not doing something incredibly unusual. It would almost certainly be much more expensive, in terms of both materials and time, to use an old sequencer instead of just outsourcing the sequencing to a sequencing company.

  3. Even if this were a laser-based Sanger sequencer (an ABI 3730, for example), the cost of running it would still be obscene. Spare parts aren’t cheap and the reagent necessary to dye each base must always be purchased fresh at full cost. Think of ABI’s “Big Dye” as printer ink.

  4. Yes, as others have mentioned this is very analogous to an obsolete ink-jet printer. This is true of nearly any piece of scientific equipment needing consumables and not just sequencers. Laboratories often have to upgrade equipment simply because the manufacturer has ceased selling the needed reagents. It’s rarely a good deal to buy an old piece of scientific equipment unless you really know what you can do with it — it’s not like an old server which you probably could find some use for. 

    1. It looks to me like it would transform into a pretty bad ass dorm fridge/photocopy machine.  With a few additional parts, of course.  

      1. We have a HiSeq 2500 (the current top of the line in next-gen sequencing) in my lab. I swear, when it get’s surplussed in five years because we have disposable-chip single-molecule realtime sequencers, I’m going to buy the sucker and turn it into the world’s most awesome kegerator.

    2. Well, if you can remove it and control it properly, it probably contains quite a good electrophoresis power supply, and those aren’t cheap – though you’d need to be able to set the voltage, amperage, and timing, and those are probably pre-programmed, and there’s probably no display. Also, it presumably has a bunch of electronically controlled liquid-handling components.

  5. You could probably get bitter ex gradstudents to pay a dollar a pop to shoot it with a revolver.

  6. I think you guys who are yelling “obsolete!” are forgetting what a wealth of take-out parts this would contain.

    1. There’s a DC power supply, a thermoelectric cooling unit, a tiny recirculating pump, not much else……

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