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Helicos on Track to Launch HeliScope Soon, Presents System Data at JPMorgan Conference

This article has been updated to clarify the initial throughput of the system.
SAN FRANSCISCO (GenomeWeb News) – A Helicos BioSciences official said today that the firm is on track to ship its first next-generation sequencing instrument very soon.
Speaking to investors at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference here, Helicos President and COO Steve Lombardi said the firm has nine HeliScope sequencers on its manufacturing floor right now in various stages of production and testing. He said that although the firm does not have orders for the system yet, interest from potential customers in pharma, academia, and genome centers outnumbers the instruments on its production floor.
Lombardi said two of the instruments are in the final stages of production, including validation testing. He also noted that Helicos’ first-generation chemistry is ready to ship.
In addition, the firm today unveiled the first data from testing of the HeliScope. According to Lombardi’s presentation, 50 percent of strands in a run on the machine produced read lengths of 28 bases or longer. He noted during the firm’s breakout session that as Helicos further develops its chemistry, read lengths will get “longer and longer.”
The initial version of the system will offer between 25 megabases per hour and 90 megabases per hour, depending on the application. Lombardi said that the company expects it to reach 1.3 gigabases per hour through further development of its chemistry.
Lombardi said the HeliScope can do whole-genome sequencing at 10x coverage in eight weeks at a cost of $72,000.
He said that Helicos’ goal is not to replace Sanger sequencing, but rather the company is focused on translational medicine and applications such as gene expression and medical sequencing. He also said that a key advantage for the HeliScope is that it is a complete workflow system and includes sample preparation and an image analysis compute tower.
Lombardi noted that the real-time image processing offered by the HeliScope is a feature not found on competing systems made by Illumina and Applied Biosystems.
Lombardi also said that Helicos does not plan on offering sequencing services and would stick to its core competency in the “razor/razor blade” model. He said collaborations would focus on applications for the HeliScope, such as the deal inked earlier this week with miRNA researcher Victor Ambros.
Lombardi said miRNA data from the HeliScope would be presented at the upcoming Marco Island meeting.
The company’s stock was up 18.65 percent, to $14.76, in afternoon trading.