Pacific Biosciences announces launch of two new gene-sequencing systems

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By Louis Allen - 

US biotech company Pacific BioSciences of California (PacBio) (NASDAQ: PACB) has joined a number of next-generation sequencing (NGS) launches this year, having announced its own upcoming release of two new sequencing systems.

The California-based company announced the news at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) conference, suggesting the new gene-sequencing systems were more affordable for users.

PacBio plans to bring its short-read DNA sequencing platform named “Onso” to market in the first half of 2023, to compete with sequencing giant Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN).

It also announced its long-read sequencer “Revio”, which will list at US$779,000, and enable customers to sequence up to 1,300 human whole genomes per year, at less than US$1,000 per genome.

PacBio chief executive officer Christian Henry said its new systems will open the door to a number of new opportunities within gene-sequencing.

“By being able to see more of the genome, you can uncover more answers,” he said.

Mr Henry believes that with PacBio’s new gene-sequencing systems, to go along with existing company infrastructure, it [PacBio] has “a real good shot of very significant growth over the next few years”.

Onso sequencing system

After announcing plans to begin external beta testing of its Onso system, the company’s new short-read instrument will become available for ordering and shipping in the first half of 2023.

The testing will commence in the coming days, with the Broad Institute, Cornell Weill School of Medicine, and Corteva Biosciences.

Biotech giant Illumina has recently been under fire from antitrust regulators, both in the United States and Europe, after it went ahead with the US$7.1 billion purchase of its former subsidiary Grail.

Grail uses Illumina’s sequencing systems, aiming to detect cancer by looking for fragments of cancer DNA in a patient’s blood.

“What you’re looking for in those diagnostic tests are needles in a haystack. You’re trying to find that one mutated piece of DNA that could be an indication of having early cancer,” Mr Henry said.

PacBio’s short-read sequencer is aimed at emerging markets which includes multi-cancer early detection.

PacBio’s Revio system

PacBio’s new long-read sequencer, Revio, has capabilities of being 15 times more powerful than its current Sequel IIe system.

According to the company, Revio’s runs are also 20% faster than its previous Sequel IIe system.

Its strengthened high throughput capabilities allow labs to do 10,000 or 20,000 sample projects, which hasn’t been possible with the Sequel lle system.

Right now, the Sequel IIe can do 50 to 60 human genomes a year, whereas Revio will be able to do around 1,300 genomes a year.

Revio uses the company’s same trademark Hi-Fi technology, which has very high accuracy and has been used for large studies in human genetics, cancer research, agricultural genomics.

PacBio said the difference between the old and new instruments lies in a redesigned SMRT Cell.

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