Testing the Waters: Next-Gen Sequencing in Molecular Diagnostics

Most sequencing companies today would never pass up an opportunity to make some noises about the molecular diagnostics (MDx) market. Even if their product is only being sold to research customers. Even if they don’t yet have a product on the market. The logic goes something like this: the research market is somewhat limited and heavily dependent on government funding. Molecular diagnostics, on the other hand, is a large, fast growing market where next generation sequencing technologies have yet to materially penetrate. (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing, Molecular diagnostics | Alejandro @ 12:34 AM | | Comments (0)

The iPod of Sequencing?

The day is not far off (less than five years, if Pacific Biosciences and others deliver on their promises) when sequencing a complete human genome will be a matter of a few minutes and a hundred dollars. It will be a routine analysis in hospitals and doctors’ offices. Sequencing tools may never become consumer gadgets, but they may eventually be integrated into home pregnancy tests: not only will you find out if you’re expecting – you’ll also learn the sex of the fetus, and whether any worrisome genetic predispositions are in store. (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing | Alejandro @ 4:09 AM | | Comments (0)

How Long for Helicos?

In mid-April, Helicos Biosciences, the first company to market a single-molecule, next generation DNA sequencing platform, announced its financial results for 2009. Yesterday it announced poor Q1 results and restructuring plans. The company faces a precarious future as it burns through its cash reserves and strives to generate new equipment sales. Its auditors have questioned its viability as a going concern. (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing | Alejandro @ 6:51 AM | | Comments (0)

More out there beyond the high-end research market

Last week Illumina’s management shared its estimate of total NGS instruments sold to date: 1,500. According to their accounting, this represents only 10% of the total number of first generation, capillary electrophoresis instruments sold. In their words, only the ”really high end of that marketplace” has been reached so far. And it is only recently, with the announcement of Ion Torrent’s sub-$50K entry, that a serious contender for the low-end of the market has appeared. (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing | Alejandro @ 10:29 PM | | Comments (1)

Far from Commoditization

Automated DNA sequencing ramped up in the late 90s with the introduction of the capillary electrophoresis (CE) instruments developed by Applied Biosystems. This platform played a key role in the race to sequence the first human genome, and retains a tenuous hold as the gold standard for de novo sequencing, particularly of larger genomes (e.g., mammals). CE represents the first-generation of automated sequencing technology, whereas the short-read, high-throughput platforms commercialized by 454 Life Sciences, Illumina and Life Technologies represent the second generation. These instruments have been on the market since the mid-2000s and their performance has improved rapidly without fundamental changes in the underlying technologies. The first third-generation, long-read / high-throughput platform is already on the market and others are expected soon. (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing | Alejandro @ 12:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Whole Genome Cost is Not the Whole Story

The cost of whole genome sequencing is a proxy for the performance of sequencing instruments – but looking at it alone can lead to the wrong conclusions. The obsessive focus on how this cost is plummeting reinforces the impression that competition is entirely cost-driven, implies that there is no differentiation between technologies, creates the sense that sequencing (and more specifically, whole human genome sequencing) is the only application of this technology and that all companies are competing solely for this market, and supports the overly simplistic conclusion that the sequencing instrument business will soon be a profit-free endeavor. Current reality, however, is almost the complete opposite of these suppositions. (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing | Alejandro @ 6:18 AM | | Comments (0)

What’s Cheaper and Greener Than Clean Energy?

Clean energy gets a lot of press these days, for good reason.  But behind all this excitement is another solution that’s playing a key role in combating global warming today:  residential energy efficiency.  It’s low-tech, relatively low-cost, and has huge potential. We recently completed a project to help the Sierra Club plan an extensive home retrofit program as part of their ambitious emissions reduction goals.

Why homes? According to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, homes are responsible for 21 percent of U.S. emissions, twice as much as from passenger cars. Matt Golden, founder of Efficiency First, an industry trade group, has said that if a steady run-rate of 10 million residential energy efficiency retrofits per year is achieved by 2020, the U.S. could net a five percent decrease in the country’s overall carbon emissions.  Still, despite the great opportunity, many consumers are unaware of the importance of energy efficiency or what steps they can take to reduce their energy usage. Learn more about residential energy efficiency here and here.

Filed under: Energy efficiency | Kristen @ 4:12 PM | | Comments (0)

Is the Genome Sequencing Industry Doomed?

Many companies and commentators have likened the evolution of DNA sequencing technology to that of computing (see, for example, this interview with Jonathan Rothberg, founder of 454 Life Sciences). The story goes like this: from a world of “mainframes” — the first-generation Sanger sequencing platforms –, to the current “minicomputers” – the second-generation instruments offered by 454, Illumina and Life Technologies –, it is easy to infer a rapid transition into third- and perhaps fourth-generation technologies that will eventually culminate in the sequencing equivalent of the laptop computer or the mobile, wireless computer.  (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing | Alejandro @ 12:50 AM | | Comments (0)

The Business of Sequencing

One of the most dynamic sectors in high tech these days is the field of genome sequencing. There is a high profile technological race to reduce the cost of sequencing and open up new and promising areas of research as well as clinical applications. In a medium rife with hyperbole and overstatement, one can still repeat with a straight face that this technology, and the knowledge it will unlock, is going to change our world. (Read more…)

Filed under: Genome sequencing | Alejandro @ 10:00 PM | | Comments (3)


Do Not Operate This Business While Under the Influence of Wine

by Kristen Sager

Once a cottage industry that relied on sommeliers and industry experts like Wine Spectator to dictate taste and influence sales, the business of wine has been revolutionized by new technologies, beginning with e-commerce sites but more dramatically with new social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, and platforms like the iPhone that create influencers out of everyday people. The millenials who have embraced these technologies represent a large market: 76 million consumers with buying power of $221 billion. According to a national study by Sonoma State University, the percentage of millenials who consume wine has increased 70 percent from 2004 to 2006, and as a cohort, they are more inclined to drink wine than beer.

These are trends that we explored in a market feasibility assessment for a touchscreen manufacturer that was considering developing wine software applications and devices. But while more consumers are talking to their friends and recommending and purchasing wine online, we found that the majority of underlying businesses weren’t making money. Antiquated laws, concentrated distribution and a highly competitive, brand-driven environment hinder the development of new, profitable business models. So, although our study validated what a career wine executive said – “everybody wants to be in the wine business” – the potential applications assessed didn’t make sense for our client.

Filed under: Mobile Apps / Devices | Kristen @ 10:12 PM | | Comments (0)

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