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Illumina, ABI Ramp Up to Meet Next-Gen Demand

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As the market for next-generation sequencers is picking up pace, Illumina and Applied Biosystems are shifting to a higher gear.

In July, Illumina said it had received more than 95 orders in total for its Genome Analyzer, which launched earlier this year, exceeding initial expectations. To satisfy customers’ appetite for the new platform and reduce order backlog, Illumina is increasing its manufacturing capacity and adding staff in marketing, sales, and support.

“The sequencing business is performing beyond our expectations and holds great promise,” said Jay Flatley, Illumina’s CEO, during a conference call. He said that more than half of sequencer orders are from outside the core genome centers — an unexpected trend.

By comparison, 454 Life Sciences installed 20 of its Genome Sequencer instruments in 2005, its first year of sales, and had an installed base of more than 60 units by the end of 2006.
ABI, feeling the heat, said in late July that it would move up the full commercial launch of its SOLiD sequencer to October from early 2008. It, too, expects an initial backlog of orders for its new system.

The company’s early access program got the SOLiD platform into users’ labs this summer. “[We] got very positive feedback from these customers that also had experience with competitive units running side by side,” said Mark Stevenson, executive vice president at ABI.

In a conference call, ABI President Tony White acknowledged that “the noise some of the competition has been making” played a part in the company’s decision to move up the launch. But he believes the game is not over. “This is a market that is going to play out over the next several years, not the next several months,” he said. “We intend to compete vigorously in this new market, drawing on our deep relationships with sequencing labs worldwide.”                    

Julia Karow

Short Reads

Helicos BioSciences, preparing the launch of its HeliScope next-generation sequencer later this year, reported growing losses and increasing R&D expenses for the second quarter ending June 30. Helicos had $143,000 in grant revenue from NIH for the quarter, compared to no revenue during the same quarter the year before. Research and development expenses grew to $5.3 million, up from $2.9 million during the year-ago quarter.

GATC Biotech, a genomics services firm based in Germany, has purchased an Applied Biosystems SOLiD DNA sequencing system under ABI’s early-access program. GATC will install the SOLiD system in its facilities this fall, adding to two other next-gen sequencing platforms it already has in house: an Illumina Genome Analyzer and a GS FLX from Roche subsidiary 454 Life Sciences. GATC said the SOLiD system will boost its sequencing capacity from 130 gigabases per year to 250 gigabases a year.

The Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research will use two new philanthropic gifts — including $1 million from the AT&T Foundation and $300,000 from the Elizabeth Huth Coates Charitable Foundation — to expand its sequencing and informatics infrastructure. The Coates gift has already gone toward buying an Illumina 1G Genetic Analyzer.

Data Point

$15 million

The National Human Genome Research Institute announced the latest funding round for its next-gen sequencing technology development grants. In all, the institute awarded more than $15 million to 12 investigators.

$1,000 Genome

Richard Fair, Duke University, $3,686,000 (3 years), Continuous Sequencing-by-Synthesis, Based on a Digital Microfluidic Platform

Stuart Lindsay, Arizona State University, $877,000 (3 years), Sequencing by Recognition

Xinsheng Sean Ling, Brown University, $820,000 (3 years), Hybridization-Assisted Nanopore DNA Sequencing

Wlodek Mandecki, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, $1,672,000 (3 years), Ribosome-Based Single Molecule Method to Acquire Sequence Data from Genomes

Andre Marziali, University of British Columbia, $746,000 (3 years), Nanopore Array Force Spectroscopy Chip for Rapid Clinical Genotyping

John S. Oliver, NABsys, $498,000 (2 years), Hybridization-Assisted Nanopore Sequencing

Robert Riehn, North Carolina State University, $439,000 (2 years), Sequencing DNA by Transverse Electrical Measurements in Nanochannels

H. Kumar Wickramasinghe, University of California, Irvine, $2,184,000 (3 years), High-Throughput, Low-Cost DNA Sequencing Using Probe Tip Arrays

$100,000 Genome

Jeremy Edwards, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, $900,000 (3 years), Polony Sequencing the Human Genome

Jingyue Ju, Columbia University, $644,000 (2 years), 3’-O-Modified Nucleotide Reversible Terminators for Pyrosequencing

Jingyue Ju, Columbia University, $2,217,000 (2 years), An Integrated System for DNA Sequencing by Synthesis

David Schwartz, University of Wisconsin, $882,000 (3 years), Sequence Acquisition from Mapped Single DNA Molecules

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