SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb) – BGI is planning to launch two next-generation sequencing systems this year based on Complete Genomics' technology, BGI CEO Jun Wang said during a presentation today at the JP Morgan conference.
In addition, he said that two BGI spinoff companies — BGI Tech and BGI Dx (formerly called BGI Health) — have now merged into one company that plans to go public in 2016. BGI Tech and BGI Dx raised ¥1.4 billion ($226 million) and ¥2 billion ($323 million), respectively, in private equity financing rounds, and following the merger raised an additional ¥2 billion in private equity financing. Wang first said in 2013 that BGI Tech had plans to go public, but did not have a timeline for doing so. The company had sold shares in order to purchase Complete Genomics, and the timing depended in part on its shareholders, Wang said at the time.
During his presentation today, Wang also discussed several of BGI's clinical sequencing projects, including work in reproductive health, cancer, and complex diseases.
Wang provided few details of the sequencing systems BGI plans to launch this year, but said they would be based on Complete Genomics' technology. BGI acquired Complete Genomics in 2013 as a wholly owned subsidiary, and at the time, Cliff Reid, who still serves as Complete's CEO, said the company would continue to focus on whole human genome sequencing.
Last August, BGI said it had made modifications to the technology to enable exome sequencing, which it began offering as a service. And, last summer, it received clearance from China's Food and Drug Administration for its noninvasive prenatal test NIFTY on two NGS systems, one of which was dubbed BGISEQ-1000 and based on Complete's technology.
Wang declined to disclose whether BGISEQ-1000 would be one of the platforms it commercializes this year. He did say that one platform would be a large-scale platform "more accurate than anything you can imagine," while the other would be a desktop instrument with automated sample prep. He said Reid would provide details of the systems in the second quarter.
In the first quarter of this year, BGI plans to launch a consumer-friendly version of Genome Voyager, a personalized whole-genome viewer for research purposes only.
BGI also offers a range of clinical tests through BGI Dx, including NIFTY test, of which it has administered more than 500,000 tests, Wang said. BGI Dx has also performed NGS-based carrier screening on more than 1,000 samples, as well as single-cell preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The firm is also looking to develop diagnostics based on the sequencing of fetal cells. Wang added that when his own wife was 8 weeks pregnant he sequenced DNA from a fetal cell as well as cell-free DNA.
In the field of cancer, the company has developed a panel called TumorCare that targets more than 500 genes that it uses to guide treatment decisions, and has been testing the sequencing of circulating tumor DNA, Wang said. He added that BGI is also doing a study to test the feasibility of population-scale sequencing of cell-free DNA in healthy people for early cancer detection, which he said has yielded "interesting results."
Previously, the company described sequencing-based tests for genetic disorders like autism and deafness as well as tests for HPV and HLA typing.
Finally, one of BGI's signature projects, the Million Genomes Project, which aims to sequence one million human, one million plant and animal, and one million bacterial genomes, seems to have expanded in scope. Today, Wang described the Million Omics Database project, which he said would include all 'omics data from one million people, including genomic, transcriptomic, epigenomic, metabolomic, and microbiome data.
This article has been updated from a previous version, which orginally stated the amount raised by BGI Tech and BGI Dx in US dollars instead of Chinese renminbi.