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PacBio Plans to Sell First DNA Sequencers in 2010; Aims for 100 Gigabases Per Hour

MARCO ISLAND, FL (GenomeWeb News) – Pacific Biosciences said at a meeting last week that it is working on a next-generation DNA sequencing instrument that it believes will eventually be able to produce 100 gigabases of sequence data per hour, or a diploid human genome at 1-fold coverage in about 4 minutes.
 
Sometime in 2010, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company plans to sell its first DNA sequencing systems, performance specifics of which have yet to be determined, to early adoptors, PacBio Chairman and CEO Hugh Martin told GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication In Sequence last week.
 
The price of the instrument will likely be in the range of that of next-gen sequencers sold by 454/Roche, Illumina, and Applied Biosystems, he said, which sell for approximately $400,000 to $600,000.
 
Speaking in a packed auditorium at the end of the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology meeting in Marco Island, Fla., on Saturday, PacBio’s Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Stephen Turner said that after achieving a set of milestones in November, the company decided to start developing the system commercially, and talking about its progress. Since it was founded in 2004 as Nanofluidics, the company has not talked about its plans or technology in public.
 
The company’s single-molecule, real-time, or SMRT, technology is based on zero mode waveguides that were originally developed by Turner and others at Cornell University’s Nanobiotechnology Center. Essentially, ZMVs are nanometer-scale holes in a 100-nanometer metal film deposited on a clear substrate. Due to the behavior of light aimed at such a small chamber, the observation volume is only 20 zeptoliters, enabling researchers to measure the fluorescence of nucleotides incorporated by a single DNA polymerase enzyme into a growing DNA strand in real time.
 
On a prototype system, PacBio researchers have so far observed read lengths of a little over 1,500 bases and a rate of 10 bases per second, and have been able to analyze up to 3,000 zero mode waveguides in parallel.
 
Since its founding, the company has raised approximately $71.5 million in venture capital from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Alloy Ventures, Maverick Capital, and others, and has received $6.6 million in funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute.
 
Over the next year, PacBio plans to raise an additional $80 million and is in the midst of growing its headcount from just over 100 to 200 employees “as fast as we can do it,” according to Martin.
 

 
A full version of this article will appear in this week's issue of In Sequence, which will publish Feb. 12.

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