The big news from the world of DNA sequencing this week was that Pacific Biosciences has launched a new sequencing platform. The successor to their RS II platform has been named The Sequel System and it will be on display at the upcoming American Society of Human Genetics meeting. The new system promises a cost of sequencing a human genome (at 10x coverage) for $3,000.
The early buzz already seems pretty positive, and hopefully this sequel will turn out to be more like The Empire Strike Back than, say, Highlander II. What follows is a fairly comprehensive roundup of what people have been saying about this new platform — note that this story has been updated several times since I first wrote it (details of these updates are included at the end of this post):
- The Official Sequel System webpage, which includes this Apple-esque video (with CSO Jonas Korlach taking on the Jony Ive role).
- Details of PacBio's presentation and workshop at the ASHG 2015 meeting are available, with information about people can live stream the workshop.
- Listen to the webcast (a conference call with questions that took place on the morning of October 1st). See below for details of some of the questions that were asked.
From science news websites
- Bio-IT World's take on the news: A Worthy Sequel: PacBio's New Sequencing System.
- GenomeWeb have a page up: PacBio Launches Higher-Throughput, Lower-Cost Single-Molecule Sequencing System (free membership required to read).
- And GenomeWeb have added a follow-up story: PacBio Hopes to Increase Research User Base With Sequel System; Mount Sinai Among First Customers.
- And a third GenomeWeb story: PacBio Preps for Sequel Shipments, Expects Roche to be Largest Customer
'Traditional' news outlets
- NBC Bay Area TV news ran a short piece which strangely omits PacBio's name from the title: Menlo Park Company Aims for 'Precision Medicine'
- I think CoreGenomics may have been the first blog to write something about the Sequel: The new Pacific Biosciences sequencer
- The incomparable Mick Watson presents his thoughts in a blog post: What does the PacBio Sequel mean for the future of sequencing?.
- Keith Robison has also weighed in with many detailed thoughts on his blog regarding the news: PacBio Sequel: Smaller Box, Bigger Bang.
- The Biomusings blog has entered into the discussion: What does SEQUEL mean for human genetics?
- From Paul Krzyzanowski's 'The Checkmate Scientist' blog: PacBio's gain would be Illumina's loss in a simple world…
From discussion forums
- There is a discussion unfolding on the SEQanswers forums.
- And as always there are discussions happening on on reddit, see r/bioinformatics and r/biology
From the world of finance
- The Motley Fool take a financial perspective on the news: Why Shares of Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. Soared Today.
- More financial insights at Zacks, 24/7 Wall St, and MarketWatch (among many others).
I guess the question that everyone is asking now concerns the possibility of someone making a genome assembly from sequence data using this platform, and then using this tool to produce a better version of the assembly. In this case, would it be a sequel Sequel SEQuel genome assembly?
Questions from the conference call
There were a lot of questions asked in the hour long conference call. I've transcribed some of them and indicated the time point where you can jump to if you are interested in hearing PacBio's answers to specific questions:
- 7:40:"Can you give us some thoughts on turnaround time and cost per genome?"
- 11:20:"Can you talk about the use case beyond your current customer base? How this expands the number of applications?"
- 15:17:"Can you help us think about some of the major changes that went into the system? Is there still a manifold that moves in three dimensions?"
- 19:20:"From a user standpoint, are there any changes to site preparations that you would have to make from Sequel vs RS II; any limitations on things like putting it on 2nd/3rd/4th floor?"
- 22:25:"You've introduced a number of kits with various applications for the RS II, will the Sequel be able to run all of the applications from the beginning, or will it take time to introduce certain applications to the system?"
- 24:34:"Are there specific customer types that you think are positioned to be more on the earlier side of adoption, such as human sequencing, or microbiology, plant, animal etc.?"
- 33:20:"Can you give a perspective on what the scalability of this platform looks like comparatively (to the RS II)?"
- 35:08:"In terms of the metrics you gave around price per human genome, can you help us think about that relative to Illumina? If you take a 30x coverage genome on Illumina, what is the equivalent coverage you would need on the Sequel to get something similar…and how long would that take you to do?"
- 38:29:"Recognising a lot has been achieved with this launch: different computer architecture, different form factor, new optical systems, higher density, with a smaller footprint. I just want to make sure, there's no compromise in raw accuracy expected relative to the RS II?"
- 47:46:"Could you describe in layman's terms the benefits of methylation detection for your system?"
- 50:50:"With your technology relative to other platforms, can you help us understand — if you have these larger pieces of the puzzle if you will — how advantageous that could be after you're done generating data, when you get down to assembling the genome?"
- 53:16:"I'm curious what percentage of potential customers that looked at the RS II passed given the high price tag? What is the incremental buyer opportunity at the price point of $350,000?"
- 57:35:"Still trying to understand what percentage of competitive platforms you think you can swap out with the Sequel?"
2015-10-01 13.46: Added some more sources of news, including questions asked in conference call
2015-10-01 20.04: Added in more conference call details, with time points of different questions.
2015-10-01 20.39: Added Keith Robison's blog post
2015-10-02 06:34: Changed link for Bio-IT World's piece
2015-10-02 09.08: Added more links about PacBio's presentation at ASHG 2015
2015-10-02 09.41: Added link to CoreGenomics post and added disclaimer
2015-10-02 11.54: Added links to Sequel-related discussions on SEQanswers and reddit
2015-10-02 13.28: Added Biomusings and Checkmate Scientist blog posts, and split main part of article into different sections
2015-10-12 09.52: Addition of NBC Bay Area News piece
2015-10-14 16.57: Addition of 2nd GenomeWeb story
2015-10-23 20.02: Addition of 3rd GenomeWeb story
Financial disclaimer: I do not own shares in any biotechnology company.