Making a New, Big Splash in the Sequencing Market
This article was originally published in Start Up
If one of the first ingredients of a successful tool company deal is to invest as little capital as possible, what then to make of the hefty $27 million raised by Helicos, a developer of high-throughput sequencing systems? The company that successfully integrates the technologies needed for single-molecule sequencing could find a fast and rewarding exit, and neither their investors nor management reject the possibility of a buy-out even before their products hit the market in a few years.
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Say goodbye to the $1000 genome, and even the $100 genome. Thanks to a fledging start-up out of Harvard, there may be an even lower near-term benchmark. Speaking at a meeting in Boston, GnuBio described technology for doing whole-genome sequencing for as little as $30 a pop using an interation of microdroplet technology already in commercial use, out of the same lab.
Microarray and sequencing specialist Illumina has entered the consumer genomics game with a DTC personal genome sequencing service. It's distancing itself from regulators by partnering with others to handle any secondary data interpretation and dialog with customers, but cautious or not, by reaching out directly to the public, the move does turn on its head the traditional notion of first developing a technology tool for research, then moving on to more regimented clinical applications.
Even if most attempts to read DNA strands in real time appear stalled and the goal of true single-molecule sequencing has, with the notable exception of Helicos, for the most part given way (at least for the time being) in favor of cluster-based approaches with lower data densities, there's still plenty of opportunity for start-ups to advance the field of next-generation sequencing: with microfluidics, nanotechnology, and biochemistries to better enable direct DNA observation and analysis.