Two bits of news were dropped this week about future next generation sequencing platforms, and the news wasn’t good. First there was Qiagen, who entered the NGS platform fray with their acquisition of Intelligent Biosystems (IBS) in June of 2012. Combined with their acquisitions of Ingenuity and CLC bio and their core competency in sample prep, they’re on their way to building a complete NGS workflow for the clinical market, from sample through interpretation. The piece of this sequencing workflow that’s still missing is the actual sequencer. When they acquired IBS they changed the name of the platform to GeneReader and announced that it would be ready by mid-2014. Mid-2014 has quietly arrived and rather than announcing the new platform, or even an early access program, Qiagen stated in their recent quarterly investor update that the launch of the GeneReader is still 12-18 months away. So now we’re looking at late 2015 or even early 2016 if that schedule slips a bit. That’s a long time for competitors to improve platforms that are already on the market (like the FDA-cleared MiSeqDx from Illumina and the soon-to-be-submitted Ion Torrent PGM from Thermo).
The second bit of news comes from GnuBIO, which was recently acquired by Bio-Rad for $110M ($40M upfront, $70M in milestone payments). While this was obviously good news for GnuBIO investors, this potentially could be great news for the NGS market. With Bio-Rad’s resources and microdroplet expertise, it could mean a more capable machine and a timely product launch (slated for mid-2014 prior to the acquisition). However, during their quarterly investors call this week, the CFO casually announced that it “will likely take a few years to bring this product to market”. A ‘few years’ in next generation sequencing is practically a lifetime. A few years ago the SOLiD platform was giving Illumina a run for their money.
Maybe one of the emerging platforms will give us a positive surprise soon. Oxford Nanopore’s MinION early access program is in full swing. They’ve sent their handheld sequencers to dozens of customers, but no one has gone public with their results yet – it appears everyone is still in the ‘quiet’ QC phase where they’re not allowed to share. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will be the first to tweet or blog their nanopore results. We can’t wait to find out!