Frequently Asked Questions

Select an FAQ Topic to Explore:

Ion AmpliSeq On-Demand – General Panel design

  1. Why can I order only 500 genes in an On-Demand panel?

    For this version of the software, we’ve set an ordering limit to 500 genes or 15,000 amplicons per panel due to manufacturing restrictions. As we continue to make improvements this limit is likely to increase and larger designs may be ordered.

  2. Why is there a limit on the number of genes that I can add to my On-Demand panel?

    Since the order limit is set at 500 genes per panel, it becomes impractical to allow a large number of genes into the Grid or Table view, which will need to be deselected in order to make the design orderable. For this reason, we’ve introduced a limit on the number of genes that can be added to an On-Demand panel.

  3. Can I edit the content once I’ve created a design?

    Yes, an On-Demand design can be edited after it has been created as long as it has not been ordered, or a Spike-in Panel created. This is different from Made-to-Order designs, which can only be edited in the “Draft” mode, and become locked once the job has been submitted and the Results reported.

  4. Can I download my list of targets once I’ve created a design?

    Yes, select the “Export targets” button to download the list as a CSV file. This will export all the selected targets displayed in the user interface.

  5. Once I’ve created a design, can I add more content from a Disease Research Area (DRA)?

    Not directly. Currently we do not allow addition of DRA content to an existing design, only to new designs. The workaround is to create a new design with the desired DRA content, and then export the list of targets. You can then upload this list to the desired existing On-Demand design.

  6. What are the genes that are ordered when I click the “Order” button?

    When you click the “Order” button, only genes that are available as On-Demand genes, and which you select will be ordered. If you create a Spike-in Panel, that panel needs to be ordered separately by visiting the results page of that panel.

  7. Can I edit my design once I’ve placed an order?

    No, once you’ve placed an order, the design cannot be edited because the necessary files needed for analysis by Torrent Suite and Ion Reporter Software need to remain in sync with the material you ordered. If you need to edit your design, select the “Clone” option. A new IAD number will then be assigned to your design, and you will have the option to edit the design content.

  8. Can I reorder a design once I’ve placed an initial order?

    Yes, you can always go back to your ordered design and place a new order.

  9. What is the annotation source and version that is used to recognize gene symbols when creating an On-Demand Panel?

    The source of annotations is refGene and the version that we’re using is version v74.

  10. Are untranslated regions (UTR’s) included with an On-Demand gene?

    No, only the coding DNA sequence (CDS) region of a gene is included as part of an On-Demand gene design.

  11. Are UTR-only genes supported? What about pseudogenes?

    No, only genes containing CDS regions are supported. At this time, pseudogenes are not supported.

  12. What is the padding used for On-Demand gene designs?

    The padding for every On-Demand gene design is 5 bp on the 5’ and 3’ ends.

  13. Can I share my design with a collaborator the same way I do with a Made-to-Order design (also known as custom designs)?

    We currently do not support an easy share mechanism for sharing the design to collaborators. However, you can export the list of targets, and share that list with your collaborator. The design they create will be identical to yours if the list of targets is the same.

  14. What is “in-silico” coverage?

    “In-silico” coverage is defined by the percentage of bases that are covered by the tiling of amplicons. This number is a computer-based calculation and should not be confused with experimental coverage, which represents the actual performance of the panel in the lab.

  15. What is “Gene uniformity”?

    The number of reads spanning is counted for each base across all padded coding exons of a gene. An average value is calculated for all the bases, and the percentage of bases with read counts above 20% of the average value is defined as “Gene uniformity”.

  16. Have you checked for all possible gene combinations to test for primer-primer interactions?

    No, the number of possible combinations is astronomical and it is not possible to test for all possible combinations in the lab. What the team has done is use computer-based searches to reduce as much as possible the occurrence of primer-primer interactions. In addition, the genes have been synthesized in large gene batches, and we have observed less than 1% amplicon drop-out due to suspected primer-primer interactions.

Ion AmpliSeq On-Demand – Disease Research Areas (DRA’s)

  1. What are the sources used for creating the associations for the various Disease Research Areas found in the tool?

    The sources include DisGeNET , Unified Medical Language System and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).

  2. What algorithm was used to create such associations?

    An in-house gene scoring algorithm was used to create these associations. Details of the algorithm are proprietary.

  3. What does the “Score” mean?

    The “Score” ranks the relationship between a gene and a disease. It takes into account both the strength and number of gene-disease pairs.

  4. Is there a white paper or publication where I can get more technical details around the DRA database?

    Yes, our white paper can be found here . (link to be provided)

  5. Can I preview the content of a DRA before creating a design?

    No, a preview of the gene content is not available at this time. You need to create the design in order to view the gene content.

  6. Can I pre-select the gene content of a DRA before creating a design?

    No, gene content cannot be pre-selected. You can only select full DRA categories by clicking on the box on the right, and then edit the gene content once the design is in the On-Demand Grid or Table views.

  7. What is the number in parentheses next to each DRA?

    The number in parentheses ( ) denotes number of genes in the group.

  8. The gene count doesn’t seem to add up. Why is that?

    Gene counts often don’t add up as the sum of the subcomponents because one or more genes can belong to multiple DRA’s.

  9. My favorite gene is not present in a particular DRA. Why is that?

    Genes are scored based on their degree of association to a particular DRA by our algorithms that have aggregated the data. If your gene is not present, it is likely because the observed associations are below our threshold, or outside of the sources we used. Contact our support team ( if you are aware of strong evidence demonstrating that a gene should be included in a specific category.

  10. What are “ACMG Recommendations…“?

    American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) Recommendations for Reporting of Incidental Findings in Clinical Exome and Genome Sequencing.

  11. What are “Newborn Screening Conditions” or “Newborn Screening”genes?

    These are genes associated with conditions listed in the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP) for newborn babies.

Ion AmpliSeq On-Demand – IGV Viewer

  1. What is the “Expected coverage” track in the IGV viewer?

    The “Expected coverage” track reflects the number of reads that were observed for each amplicon of each targeted gene during our validation experiments. This track should only be used as general guidance of the likely performance observed when running the experiment. Values are likely to be different when a new assay is performed, but the general coverage trend should remain.

  2. What are “Missed regions (if any)”?

    The “Missed regions” are regions where tiling of a high specificity amplicon was not possible due to local environment complexity. We have made every effort to minimize the occurrence of these regions in our On-Demand designs.

  3. What is the scale on the Y-axis?

    The Y-axis represents the experimental coverage, which has been normalized to 100.

  4. Can I use coordinates to navigate the IGV viewer?

    No, the IGV viewer has been limited to focus on your gene of interest. In the Grid View, click on a gene and the IGV viewer will be updated automatically and centered on that gene.

  5. I’ve noticed that occasionally, the “Expected coverage” track for an amplicon does not appear to contain information. Why is that?

    All amplicons in the design contain reads that are visualized in the “Expected coverage” track. If reads are not present, they will be highlighted in the “Missed regions (if any)” track. It may happen that, if the number of reads covering an amplicon is relatively small in comparison to neighboring amplicons, the “Expected coverage” track appears empty. However, if you change the scale to a lower value, you will then be able to visualize the lower number of reads.

  6. Why do some amplicons have very few reads in the “Expected coverage” track, versus others that have lots of reads?

    In order to achieve the most coverage (sensitivity), there is a sacrifice on specificity. So in some instances primers may either bind less tightly, or bind off-target, thereby reducing the number of amplicon reads at the desired region.

Ion AmpliSeq On-Demand – Spike-in Panels (a.k.a. Companion Panels)

  1. What are Spike-in Panels?

    Spike-in Panels are high concentration Made-to-Order Panels that are used to extend the target range to be sequenced to include genes not available as On-Demand genes. Select the “Learn more” link for more information. Note that any guarantees on performance of On-Demand Panels will be void when using a Spike-in Panel, since Made-to-Order designs are not wet-lab tested.

  2. What is the benefit of a Spike-in Panel?

    Since the number of genes available as On-Demand genes is limited, a Spike-in Panel enables a user to sequence all the targets initially wanted in a single target amplification reaction.

  3. What are the limitations of a Spike-in Panel?

    The limitations of Spike-in Panels involve the number of genes that can be included, and the loss of the performance guarantee. The size of a compatible Spike-in Panel is limited to 123 amplicons per pool, for a total of 246 amplicons. Any designs exceeding this limit will not be compatible. From a performance standpoint, since Spike-in Panels are manufactured as Made-to-Order panels and are not wet-lab tested like On-Demand Panels, we cannot guarantee performance. Adding a Spike-in Panel to an On-Demand Panel will void the guarantee and should be done only if the user accepts this limitation.

  4. How are Spike-in Panels different from Ion AmpliSeq On-Demand Panels?

    Spike-in Panels follow our Made-to-Order process and are synthesized de novo at every order. There are no guarantees offered and the number of reactions is typically large (in the range of 750 to 3,000 reactions). On the other hand, On-Demand Panels have been optimized, pre-manufactured, tested and validated, and are available in small reaction number batches. On-Demand Panels also contain data that can be visualized in our integrated IGV viewer available in the Grid view.

Ion AmpliSeq Designer HowTo

  1. What are the input files for Ion AmpliSeq Designer?

    To submit human or mouse genomic targets for assay design submission, users can input a BED file of genomic regions of interest, or a Gene List file based on HUGO gene symbols and aliases.

  2. Which coordinate system should I use in my BED formatted files?

    The BED format files in AmpliSeq use the convention known as "zero-based, half-open" (ZBHO) coordinates, both for input and for output files. In contrast dbSNP and COSMIC use "one-based, inclusive" (OBI) coordinates. Notice then that compared to dbSNP and COSMIC, AmpliSeq coordinates will have a start coordinate one less than that shown on the dbSNP and COSMIC databases.

    When comparing coordinates in BED files between AmpliSeq and data from the UCSC browser, please be aware that the UCSC Genome Browser uses both coordinate systems: OBI in the web interface and ZBHO in their database and data downloads.

  3. What is the current turn around time for a submitted design with respect to the target size or number of targets?

    A design of 250kb or less should be returned in less than 48 hours of submission. For designs over 250kb or large number of targets, you should expect a longer turn around time.

  4. How can multiple labs share a single assay design (one design, multiple synthesis)?

    You can use the Sharing feature to share a read-only url link to designs. To access this feature, click on the More Actions + button at the top right of the “ My Designs” tab when displaying a design with "Ready" status.

  5. Is there any way to get genomic coordinates automatically for the regions we want, instead of having to manually type them into a form?

    Yes, you can generate BED formatted files by utilizing the UCSC Genome Browser export feature in the Table Browser section. See Working With BED Files.

  6. Can we upload FASTA sequences?

    Not at this time. We are currently exploring different methods for uploading regions to the Ion AmpliSeq Designer.

  7. Can I use Galaxy instead of UCSC or IGV?

    Yes. Any tools can be used to help you generate files for submission, but it is important to make sure the correct version of the genome is being used (hg19 for human, mm10 for mouse).

  8. What browsers are supported with this application?

    We support Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer 9 and above.

  9. How is the amplicon design criteria determined?

    Currently, Ion AmpliSeq Designer allows users to choose between 150 bp and 200 bp amplicon size for each design. You can also use the More Solutions + button to toggle between 200bp/150bp amplicon size designs. The amplicon size includes the primer sequences and the insert regions. The option for 150 bp is what we recommend for FFPE DNA and 200 bp for normal DNA. The Ion PGM System can be used to sequence 1x100 bp and 1x 200 bp.

  10. What can I do to ensure that an entire exon is covered in my design?

    If coverage obtained from the initial design is less than 100%, you can try to extend the primer further out into the intron to capture the whole exon. Primer regions are not considered covered, so placing padding may ensure that we are able to get good quality sequence at the ends of exons, and to get some sequence read into the splice junction regions.

  11. Is it possible to use the Ion AmpliSeq design to actually screen a large number of SNPs (up to a 1000 or more) in a large number of individuals (up to a 1000 or more)?

    Yes, Ion AmpliSeq Designer allows you to do SNP genotyping by sequencing. Alternatively, you can also consider Taqman SNP Genotyping Assays for large number of samples.

  12. Is it be possible to use the designer to detect differences between methylated/non-methylated DNA?

    The Ion AmpliSeq Designer does not design primers for methylation experiments.

  13. Can the designer be used for targeted whole genome sequencing?

    The Ion AmpliSeq is used for targeted resequencing. It cannot be used to sequence whole genomes.

  14. Exactly what is provided as output to the assay designs? Can those files be used with a third party oligo synthesis provider?

    When you click on the Download Results button of your Results ready project / version, the following output files are generated in a compressed folder.

    File Name Details
    IAD# _coverage_summary.csv Gene-specific and region-specific coverage details
    IAD# _coverage_details.csv This file provides details of coverage by exon for targets submitted by CDS or CDS+UTR (targets submitted as regions cannot be decomposed into exon-equivalents, so they are not listed in this file). If a request has no CDS (or CDS+UTR) targets, then there is no information for creating this coverage_details.csv file.
    IAD# _Submitted.bed BED file with the genomic coordinates submitted to design

    BED file of coordinates of what the application designed to
    IAD# _Missed.bed BED file of coordinates that were missed by the designer
    IAD# _Missed_Detail.bed BED file containing the reasons of the missing coverage
    IAD# _384WellPlateDataSheet.csv Amplicon ID, forward and reverse primer sequences. This file uses "OBI" coordinates (see FAQ number 2 in the "Designer HowTo" section for details).
    plan.json This file contains information to automatically configure a run plan for the panel, when the panel's files are directly downloaded from the Torrent Server 3.6

    It is possible to use the primers designed by AmpliSeq with a third party oligo synthesis provider, however the primers manufactured by Thermo Fisher are optimized for their use with the Ion Torrent platform.

  15. When I submit a UCSC .bed file with exons from a few genes the user interface estimation of the size of my design is very large. Why? how can I prevent that?

    The user interface does not check for duplicate regions or any overlaps of the regions submitted in a .bed file. The UCSC .bed files typically contain duplicate regions for many quasi-identical transcripts. Too many overlapping regions may lead to a wrong estimate which may prevent the submission if the target size exceeds the currently allowed limit of 500 Kb.

    A simple and effective way that may help preventing this, is by running the UCSC .bed file through the program mergeBed from the BEDTools suite. This will create equivalent regions in a smaller .bed file.

  16. Which is the largest design that I can submit to AmpliSeq?

    The largest design that can be submitted directly to the pipeline is at most 500 Kb. However the pipeline is capable of processing designs up to 5 Mb, but such designs are predictably costly and take up a large amount of computational resources.

    In the cases of submissions larger than 500 Kb, the user will be contacted by email requiring more details about his/her interest in that particular, design and the design will be put on hold until the contact has been made.

  17. The size of my panel that is reported in the UI changed after the AmpliSeq release of March 31st, 2014 (AmpliSeq 3.4), Why? Did my design actually changed? Is it safe to order this panel?

    The changes in the reported size are due to a change in the algorithm used by the UI to estimate the size and nothing else. The change was necessary as the older algorithm was underestimating the panel size for several instances. Nothing actually happened to your design, its actual size did not change. If available, you can compare the design files downloaded time ago when the design was generated, to the files available for download now: they must be identical. The manufacture of AmpliSeq panels is actually based on those files produced by the designer and so a panel ordered now should be identical to a panel previously ordered.

Ion AmpliSeq Designer Primer Design Bioinformatics

  1. How does the software accommodate intronic regions?

    When the user submits a gene to design, only exons are used as targets. If you wish to design across the whole gene (exons and introns) the user needs to submit the start and end coordinates of the gene.

  2. When I enter gene symbols, does the design include promoter regions?

    No. The designer uses exon coordinates as listed by the UCSC Genome Browser. Promoters are not part of the exons and need to be requested using a BED file describing the genome coordinates.

  3. What is the level of overlap among the primers? Are the overlapping primers in the same tube?

    Primers in the same tube do not overlap. As our product line evolves this might change in the future and a small overlap might be possible.

  4. For the Ion AmpliSeq Designer, are primer sets designed automatically (with a computer program), without interrogation from a research scientist?

    The process is an automated pipeline, optimized to provide the maximum coverage with reliable primer sets.

  5. How are the Ion AmpliSeq Custom designs validated?

    Each primer pool goes through a rigorous process to meet strict design specifications. During the design of our pipeline, we validated a substantial number of our custom assays though wet lab testing.

  6. Can I use a subset of the Fixed Panels for a custom design?

    Yes. Clicking on the Customize Panel button for the Panel design you are working with will create a starting template where you can delete or add genes or regions.

  7. For 200 bp designs, should the BED file submitted be within a 175 - 225 bp range?

    No, you do not have to select the gene coordinates (BED file) to be 175 - 225 bp. The Ion AmpliSeq Designer designs the primer pairs, and provides the appropriate BED file and primer sequences to be approximately 200 bp amplicons.

  8. If I submit two continuous regions (175 - 225 bp range each) combined as one BED file, is it possible to get the designed primers for the overlapping region?

    If overlapping region are submitted to the design pipeline, internally the region is concatenated and treated as a single region for design, thus there will be no overlap. The two regions are reported back in the UI as submitted. While it is possible that an amplicon might be prorated twice, once in each of the original regions, this amplicon (and its primers) only occurs once in the design (see the plate file).

  9. The PDF report from my Ion AmpliSeq Cancer Panel runs shows that for the aligned sequence section, we have 0.00% coverage of the genome. Is this because the fraction of the genome covered is so low compared to the hg19 reference that we are not showing enough decimal places?

    If a full reference was used, and you have only tens of Mbs, the coverage is so low that we don't track that far out.

  10. What is a superamplicon?

    A superamplicon is created when two forward PCRs joined to form one large amplicon. The pooler algorithm in the pipeline separates primers into separate pools to minimize this.

  11. The BED file specifications state that in a BED file the chrStart number is zero-indexed and the chrEnd number is not included in the feature. Are you following this convention for upload and are the numbers shown in the designer 1-indexed or 0-indexed?

    chromStart - The starting position of the feature in the chromosome or scaffold. The first base in a chromosome is numbered 0.

    chromEnd - The ending position of the feature in the chromosome or scaffold. The chromEnd base is not included in the display of the feature. For example, the first 100 bases of a chromosome are defined as chromStart=0, chromEnd=100, and span the bases numbered 0-99.

  12. Can you describe more about how the Ultraplex technology works?

    Development work from over a decade allows us to produce primer designs that allow simultaneous amplification of many amplicon targets. A unique chemistry has been developed for Ion AmpliSeq that allows removal of any primer dimer formed along with the majority of the primer itself from the amplified template. This makes sequencing very efficient by not wasting bases on non-informative primer sequence and allows for very clean sequencing reactions.

  13. Do your designs take into account the presence of pseudogenes?

    Yes. The pipeline first attempts to design primers that only match the target, and not the pseudogene (or duplicate) version(s). If the target gene is not covered in the initial rounds of primer selection, then the match parameters are relaxed, for the sake of coverage, in later rounds, attempting to maintain the uniqueness of the inserts.

  14. If two amplicons overlap, do the primers produce a big product in addition to two small ones?

    The pooling step in the design is optimized in order to minimize the interference between overlapping amplicons. Hence, overlapping amplicons would be segregated into different pools.

  15. Why my gene is not accepted for design?

    There are several reasons that explain why this happens:

    1. A gene must be part of the UCSC Reference Gene dataset
    2. A gene must have at least one coding transcript
    3. A gene must not map to more than one genomic location (this includes pseudoautosomal genes (PAR1,2) )
    4. A gene must not map to un-assembled contigs or alternate assemblies - examples for human include: chrUn_gl000228, chr4_gl000194_random and chr6_cox_hap2 (see the UCSC FAQ on chrN_random tables )
  16. Which sequence versions does AmpliSeq use in its computations?


    Human Genome* - Dec. 2013 (hg38, GRCh38.p2)

    Human Genome* - Feb. 2009 (hg19, GRCh37)

    Mouse Genome* - Dec. 2011 (mm10, GRCm38)

    Gene targets correspond to RefSeq v63

    Hotspots targets correspond to dbSNP v146 (for human and mouse) and COSMIC v76 (available only for human genome hg38)

    Hotspots targets correspond to dbSNP v138 (for human and mouse) and COSMIC v68 (available only for human genome hg19)


    Human RNA Canonical RefSeq Transcripts* - Feb. 2009 (hg19, GRCh37)

    HGNC Database, HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC), EMBL Outstation - Hinxton, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, CB10 1SD, UK, 11/2012

    * These files are available for download at the AmpliSeq Ion Community website

Human Genome version hg38

  1. Is hg38 the same genome version as GRCh38?

    Yes, they are the same version of the human genome. GRCh38 stands for “Genome Reference Consortium Human Reference 38” and it is the primary genome assembly in GenBank; hg38 is the ID used for GRCh38 in the context of the UCSC Genome Browser.

  2. Essentially, how is hg38 different from hg19?

    The hg19 build is a single representation of multiple genomes. The hg38 build provides alternate sequences (“alt_sequences”) for some genomic regions for which their variability prevents adequate representation by one single reference.

  3. How is the hg38 reference used by Thermo Fisher Scientific software different from the references publically available from places like UCSC or NCBI?

    • The version used by our software is based on GRCh38.p2 (

    • Unplaced, Alternate and Unlocalized contigs are listed as separate chromosomes and ordered first by chromosome localization, then by the alphabetic order of the Genbank accession of the contigs.

    • Repeat and SNP locations are soft-masked into lower case letters, while the ambiguous IUPAC bases, duplicated centromeric arrays and chrY PAR regions are hard masked into 'N's.

    • It contains chr1-22, chrX, chrY, and chr22_KI270879v1_alt.

    • Contig chr22_KI270879v1_alt is hard masked except region 269814-279356 (1-based).

    • Gene GSTT1 is located at chr22_KI270879v1_alt:270308-278486.

  4. I know there are many more “alt_sequences”, why is that your version of hg38 only considers one of those?

    Our version of hg38 only considers the chr22_KI270879v1_alt. This alt chromosome contains gene GSTT1 that was part of chr22 in hg19. This was an internal decision which was made to enable standardization of the genome reference for use across multiple businesses within our organization.

  5. Can I download the hg38 files from NCBI and use them directly for my analyses of Ion sequencing data?

    We strongly recommend that you download our version of the hg38 from our website. This version is the one that is assumed in all of our software applications, and has been tested for compatibility.

  6. Do you have a conversion tool from hg19 coordinates to hg38 coordinates?

    At this moment we do not offer any conversion tools. We recommend our users touch base with their own bioinformatics experts for further guidance.

  7. Can I analyze old assays or panels with the new hg38 build?

    No. The old assays and panels were created using hg19 as a reference and should be analyzed with the tools and analysis pipelines created for hg19.

  8. Can I still design, order and analyze old AmpliSeq panels based on hg19?

    Yes. The pipelines and tools for using hg19 as reference for design and analysis are still available.

  9. Can I still annotate my old variants (based on hg19) with Ion Reporter Software?

    Yes. The variant calling workflow based on hg19 will be available in Ion Reporter. If your design was created using hg38, then you can also call and annotate variants using Ion Reporter.

  10. Can I copy amplicons from an hg19 design to an hg38 design (or vice versa)?

    No. Amplicons from a custom design can only be copied to another custom design associated with the same reference. It is not possible to copy amplicons to a custom design associated with a different reference even if both references are human.

  11. Will there be a new version of the Ready-to Use and Community AmpliSeq Research Panels based on hg38?

    Not at this moment. The off-the-shelf panels and Community panels will still be based on hg19. Conversion of pre-designed panels may be considered in the future based on market demand.

  12. Will there be a version of the Oncomine Panels based on hg38?

    Not at this moment. The Oncomine panels will still be based on hg19.

  13. Are your Ion Reporter Software annotations based on hg38 or hg19?

    If your AmpliSeq design has been created using hg38 as a reference, then you can create and ad-hoc workflow in Ion Reporter for analysis. All analysis and annotations will take in consideration hg38 as a reference. However at this moment there are no hg38 workflows in Ion Reporter. The tools for analysis and the annotations for hg19 will still be available.

RNA AmpliSeq

  1. Why does the Ion AmpliSeq RNA pipeline not accept the entered Gene Symbol?

    The pipeline recognizes HGNC approved gene symbols, previous gene symbols, and synonyms. It is case sensitive. Please check the Gene Symbol entered for typos and then search for the Gene Symbol on the HGNC website , to confirm that is a valid entry. The pipeline requires that the Gene Symbol entered is unambiguous, meaning that it resolves to a single HGNC approved gene symbol.

  2. Why does the Ion AmpliSeq RNA pipeline not produce designs to comprehensively target all RefSeq transcripts of the entered Gene Symbol?

    The pipeline uses strict criteria in order to design a single assay per gene that will result in consistent amplification while minimizing the risk of amplifying genomic DNA, this is done by targeting splice sites between exons. If there is not a splice site that is shared between all RefSeq transcripts of the entered Gene Symbol or if a passing assay could not be designed to the most common splice site then an assay will be produced that is compatible with a subset of the RefSeq transcripts for the entered Gene Symbol.

  3. Why does the Ion AmpliSeq RNA pipeline not accept the entered RefSeq accession?

    The pipeline attempts to resolve a single hg19 genomic alignment, where an exception is made for psuedoautosomal alignments, for each RefSeq accession. Unrecognized or Invalid RefSeq transcript accessions can result when the entered accession has been permanently suppressed or was not successfully resolved to a single hg19 genomic alignment.

  4. Why does the Ion AmpliSeq RNA pipeline produce a design that is not specific to the entered RefSeq transcript accession?

    The pipeline will design a single most-inclusive assay for the gene that corresponds to the entered RefSeq transcript accession. To achieve this, the pipeline will attempt to design an assay to the most common splice site found in the RefSeq accessions for the gene.

  5. Does the AmpliSeq RNA pipeline design assays for Mouse genes/transcripts? Fusion detection? Allele expression?

    No. These are among the list of features that are on the development roadmap and will be included in subsequent releases of the Ion AmpliSeq RNA pipeline.

  6. Is there a way in the AmpliSeq RNA pipeline to specify genomic regions to design against?

    No. The RNA pipeline does not allow specifying genomic regions for design.

  7. Can I input my own FASTA sequences to design against?

    No. The RNA pipeline does not allow the entry of FASTA sequences for design.

  8. Why the AmpliSeq RNA pipeline designed.BED file isn’t compatible with UCSC genome browser?

    The data on which AmpliSeq RNA pipeline is based on, are the NCBI's RefSeq sequences. A consequence of this is that all coordinates in the .BED files correspond to RefSeq coordinates that are not recognized by the UCSC genome browser. However the .BED files produced by the RNA pipeline are fully compatible with other pieces of IonTorrent software.

  9. Why is there a restriction on the minimum and maximum number of amplicons in my design?

    The minimum of 12 is due to manufacturing process limitations. The maximum number of amplicons is based on validation test results that demonstrated good gene expression dynamic range on a PGM run. A good dynamic range means good sensitivity to detect extremes in expression of genes in a given sample.

  10. How can I find out which is the TaqMan assay (if any) corresponding to my RNA targets?

    The last two columns of the IAD#_DataSheet.csv file (included in the download results files for an RNA design) reports the preferred TaqMan assay that can be used for verification of the particular target and a classification of the of the TaqMan assay with 2 possible values:

    • Classification 1: The recommended TaqMan Gene Expression Assay targets the same exon or exon-exon boundary as the Ion RNA AmpliSeq Design.

    • Classification 2: The recommended TaqMan Gene Expression Assay targets the same set of RefSeq Accessions as the Ion RNA AmpliSeq Design.

    Follow this link for instructions on how to get the corresponding TaqMan assay.

  11. AmpliSeq RNA warns me about including high expresser genes in my design. How do you know they are high expressers?

    The high expresser genes were selected from rank ordered lists of whole transcriptome RNA-Seq expression data derived from universal human reference RNA (UHRR, Stratagene). UHRR is comprised of purified RNAs from 10 distinct human cell lines and has been shown to be an accurate and reproducible standard for comparison of gene expression data. This reference RNA has been utilized by the highly referenced Microarray Quality Control (MAQC) consortium as well the the more recent Sequence Quality Control (SEQC) study. There is familiarity among microarrays users primarily as well as some RNA-Seq customers around the MAQC samples which also bolsters the decision to use this RNA for the rank ordered list.

    Data Collection: Whole transcriptome sequence data was collected from both PGM and Proton runs using Ion 318 and Ion P1 chips, respectively.
    Since UHRR represents several different tissues and we have a wealth of internal RNA-Seq data from this sample, we found UHRR to be a reasonable sample type for determining a common list of highly expressed genes.


    UHRR product information

    MAQC Study Webpage (FDA)

    MAQC Paper

AmpliSeq Exome Panel

  1. Will AmpliSeq exome be suitable for somatic samples when PII is available?

    While the depths of coverage on PII may be suitable for somatic variant calling with Ion AmpliSeq Exome, the initial recommendation for PII will be for germline variant calling only.

  2. Are there future plans for a new AmpliSeq exome kit to be compatible with FFPE samples?

    We are not currently considering this option, but its implementation will depend on the demand for it.

  3. Apart from speed and simplicity what are the benefits of AmpliSeq over TargetSeq?

    a. Given the focused and condensed content and performance of AmpliSeq, 2 samples can be run on a single PI chip achieving >90% bases covered at >20x.

    b. Additionally, AmpliSeq offers aggressive promo pricing at this time while TargetSeq does not.

  4. Does the Ion Ampliseq exome panel only have enough oligos for 8 reactions when purchased as part of the bundle?

    Yes, each Ion AmpliSeq Exome Panel has enough oligos for 8 reactions, or 8 exomes.

  5. What is the shelf life of the bundle kit?

    9 months

Ion Panels

  1. What criteria were used to select the hotspots in the Ion cancer panels?

    Given the high number of mutations in the genes in the panels, a filtering was applied in order to include as "hotspots", only those COSMIC mutations (COSMIC v60) observed in more than 1% of the tested samples or in 2 or more samples. For the Colon & Lung panel, some Non-COSMIC mutations considered relevant were included as well.

  2. Does having "hotspots" in my panel mean that only those variants can be detected?

    No. The hotspots are variants that we have tested can be detected using the panels and the Torrent Variant Caller for producing the call (the _hotspots.bed file forces the TVC to make a call whether or not the variant is present in those particular hotspots).


  1. How do we measure on-target bases (specificity)?

    On-target bases is the percentage of total sequenced bases that mapped to target regions. This metric reflects percentage of bases from the amplicons that were designed, synthesized, and pooled that also generated sequence data that mapped back to the target regions.

  2. How is coverage of all targets ensured, in terms of both target submission and wet chemistry (assay conversion)?

    The Ion AmpliSeq Designer takes into account many different parameters to compute the best set of amplicons to cover a target region. The ability to maximize in silico coverage depends upon factors such as repetitive regions and sequence complexity. The Ion AmpliSeq 2.0 User Guide provides guidance on how many amplicons can be combined to either the Ion 314 chip, the Ion 316 chip, or the Ion 318 chip (download the guide in the Ion Community Developer Access area). Our coverage uniform is >85% of amplicons is 0.2X of the mean coverage. If the mean (or average) coverage is 2000X, then 85% of the amplicons have a depth of coverage that is > 400X.

  3. Experimentally how does one manipulate coverage? If I want 100 X, then later I want 500X, what experimentally is manipulated to achieve this?

    If you want additional coverage from your experiment, you could always run a larger chip, or multiple chips. For example, you could simply take the same library that was constructed in your initial experiment, and then run another template prep and sequencing run on a subsequent chip in your second experiment. Currently, the recommendation to achieve ~500X coverage is to run ~1kb on an Ion 314 Chip, 50kb on an Ion 316 Chip, and 500kb on an Ion 318 Chip.

Oligo Ordering

  1. Why do we provide pooled and plated primers?

    To maximize convenience and flexibility. Pooled primers can be used immediately. Plated oligos can be used to: 1) Rebuild the same pool, 2) Rebuild a pool with fewer primers.

  2. Can I add a few more genes to a set of previously ordered primer?

    Currently, the only way to do this is to duplicate the target list in a new version, add the new genes and resubmit. As long as same design attributes are set (CDS/all exons 150/200) as previously used, the genes from previous set will have the same design.

  3. I am not in the United States. Will my order be shipped directly to my lab, or first to a local Thermo Fisher distribution center, then to my lab?

    This depends. With the exception of orders from Europe that are processed in the U.K., all other international orders are first processed by the North America customer service team, who sends the form to the local customer service team for verification and final changes. The local customer service team works with the customer to determine the best route for shipment, and the decision is made by the local customer service team. Shipment to a distribution center is slower, but it is significantly less expensive for Thermo Fisher, and could potentially result in fewer customs issues and tax charges. Direct shipment is generally faster, but this adds additional shipping costs for Thermo Fisher, and there may be customs and/or tax implications.

  4. If I have a few regular primers for a region and I know they are working, can I add these primers to my AmpliSeq design?

    No, not at this time.

  5. Can I add primers manually, afterwards, to completely cover a region?

    No, not at this time. We use specially modified primers, so standard primers will not allow for library construction.

  6. Is there a minimum order for AmpliSeq?

    Ion AmpliSeq Custom Panels range from 12 amplicons* to 6,144 amplicons per tube.

    Target regions can be as small as 1 kb and can go up to 5 Mb. Ion AmpliSeq Library 2.0 Kits which combine the amplification and library reagents contain 8 reactions per kit.

    *Our minimum order quantity policy is 48 amplicons. Orders with less than 48 amplicons will be priced accordingly.

  7. Are custom primer pairs sent only in 384-well plates, or are they also available all premixed in one tube?

    Both. Each custom primer pool is delivered as both a pre-pooled tube and as individual primer pairs plated into 384-well plates. Small orders of up to 96 amplicons per pool will contain 750 pre-pooled reactions and individual primer pairs sufficient for 1,500 reactions. Larger orders of more than 96 amplicons per pool will contain 3,000 pre-pooled reactions and individual primer pairs sufficient for 6,000 reactions.

  8. How can I find out the status of the design submission for an my Ion AmpliSeq Custom order?

    Email us at or call 1-800-955-6288, x46636. Please use your Ion AmpliSeq Design ID number when referring to your order. Please contact your local customer service outside of North America.

  9. What is the Custom oligo cancellation policy?

    There is no guarantee of cancellation of a custom oligo order. Please contact your local customer service representative for more information and options. On occasion, customer service can intercept an order and is able to cancel it prior to synthesis. You must call ASAP: 1-800-955-6288, x46636.

Troubleshooting and Validating

  1. If one of the important genes missed in the coverage or was off the target, do we need to start all over? Could we just redesign that gene and plex it again?

    No, you do not need to start all over. You can add, delete and edit genes or regions from the design results. You can even create a new version of the same design, with iterative modifications, and continue to resubmit the designs.

  2. Is the recommendation to validate the sequencing data with Taqman SNP? (Direct sequencing vs indirect TaqMan assay?)

    Variant confirmation can be done with a other platforms, including Taqman SNP Genotyping Assays and Sanger sequencing–capillary sequencing.

  3. Suppose we are targeting a region and the AmpliSeq Designer suggest a design consisting on 2 primer pools. For each sample, should we prepare a library for each amplification (each pool) or should we combine the 2 amplifications (the products of the 2 amplified pools), and then do the library?

    If you design results in multiple pools, each pool should be treated independently when making libraries. You can pool the libraries together prior to the template preparation step using Ion OneTouch Systems. So if you have 2 primer pools for your panel, and plan to test 1 of the DNA samples using single chip (assuming that your target size and required sequencing coverage can be met with a single chip), then you will have 6 libraries, three of those libraries use one barcode and the remaining 3 libraries use a second barcode.

  4. Could the tumor-amplified DNA and normal-amplified DNA be loaded onto the same chip, then the sequences be separated out during analysis?

    Yes, you can pool your tumor and normal samples together into a single chip run (assuming that your target size and required coverage can be achieved in a single chip). Many people perform differential pooling so that the coverage of the normal sample is lower than the tumor sample.

  5. We see a large variation in the coverage of different regions of the cancer panel. What could you recommend?

    We recommend using the Ion AmpliSeq 2.0 Kit, as this generates much more uniform coverage. Please contact your local technical support expert further for an in depth discussion on the expected amount of coverage for Ion AmpliSeq Cancer Panel.

  6. Can I start with the AmpliSeq Cancer Panel and make my own version with a few extra custom amplicons?

    You are not able to take an existing primer pool and combine with a new primer pool, because they would have been developed independently. However, you can create a panel using gene symbols or gene regions from an existing Ion AmpliSeq Ready-to-use Panel, and add and delete some genes, and then submit for design. The BED files and gene lists for ready-to-use panels are available at Ion Community.

  7. Is there anyway to determine if a variation is true or is a mistake introduced by the polymerase?

    There are a number of ways to peform orthogonal validation of mutations found by NGS, including TaqMan Genotyping Assays in standard or digital PCR formats, TaqMan Mutation Detection Assays for specific somatic mutations, or Sanger Sequencing using Capillary Electrophoresis.

  8. Do you have plans to make your instrument and related products for in vitro diagnostic use?

    Ion Torrent is in discussion with FDA on the path to make an FDA-cleared version of the platform, and we expect this to be filed in 2013.

  9. How many bp are the primers separated from the target region, for example, by an exon?

    To ensure that an entire exon is covered, by default we add 5 bp of padding up and down-stream of the selected target region to allow room to place the primers. Padding ensures that we are able to get good quality sequence at the ends of the exons, and to get some sequence read into the splice junction regions. Primer regions are not considered covered. Therefore, if coverage obtained from the initial design is less than 100%, we can try once more to extend the primer further out into the intron to capture the whole exon.

  10. Could you target multiple pathogens, while filtering out off-target human genome amplification?

    Designs for pathogens are not currently supported for Ion AmpliSeq Designer.

  11. Could I do two or three different amplifications and then pool before going into library prep?

    It is possible to run 3 different AmpliSeq designs each with barcodes and combine them going into Template Prep.

  12. Can I import pre-design PCR primer sets and validate if they work?

    Target regions from pre-designed PCR primer sets can certainly be imported and submitted for design into the Ion AmpliSeq Designer. The specific parameters of Ion AmpliSeq Designer may result in primer sets that are different from initially pre-designed PCR primer sets, but are optimized for use with the Ion AmpliSeq Technology.

  13. Why am I getting fewer targets in my results than what I submitted in my .BED file?

    Due to quality control considerations after submission, amongst other properties, the .BED file is reviewed for duplicates. Once the duplicates have been removed and other filters have been passed, the (probably reduced) file is accepted into the pipeline.