NEW YORK – Nautilus Biotechnology is scaling back its specifications for the initial version of its proteomic platform as it continues to target a mid-2024 launch.
In particular, the company's initial release will likely not hit the targets it originally provided for minimal sample input required by the system and number of proteins it is able to quantify, Nautilus CEO Sujal Patel said during a conference call following the release of the firm's Q2 2023 financial results.
Patel said that as Nautilus "weighed the work in front of us to get our first product out the door and balanced that with our time-to-market goal, it became clear that we needed to evaluate what part of our product specifications needed to be in our first product, and what could wait until version 1.5 or version 2 follow-on."
He added that conversations with potential customers indicated that while platform characteristics like sensitivity and ease of use are "non-negotiable," there is more flexibility around other features, such as the aforementioned sample requirements and breadth of coverage.
Nautilus' array-based protein analysis platform combines machine learning and iterative rounds of probing with affinity reagents that the company believes will ultimately enable single-molecule measurements at proteome scale.
Patel did not specify how many proteins the company's platform would be able to quantify at launch, but Parag Mallick, Nautilus' cofounder and chief scientist, said during the call that it aims at launch to be capable of 150 cycles of probing per experiment. The company has previously said that it expects it will be able to identify greater than 95 percent of the human proteome, with binding data collected from around 300 cycles of probing.
Patel said that enhancements to the initial platform "that get us to the previously disclosed specification levels will only require updated consumable kits, not a new instrument."
This suggests that developing a sufficiently large library of affinity probes remains a challenge for the company. Difficulties around obtaining the necessary binders has led Nautilus to push back timelines for its platform development and launch several times. The company originally set an intermediate milestone of measuring 2,500 proteins on its platform by early 2022 with a commercial launch slated for 2023. It missed these goals and during its Q2 2022 earnings call announced it was pushing the platform's launch to 2024.
Patel declined to provide specifics on where the platform currently stands in terms of breadth of protein coverage but said that as the company hits around 2,000 proteins measured on its platform, "we will start putting [the] technology into the hands of some [key opinion leaders] and some labs that can help us to validate those assumptions."
He said that would be the first point at which outside observers would have an opportunity to assess the technology's performance.
Earlier this year, Nautilus began putting its platform in the hands of a small group of early-access users, some of whom are exploring its potential for discovery proteomics applications, suggesting that it does provide some capabilities for large-scale protein measurements.
Patel said the company expects that proteins measured would scale rapidly once the probe library exceeds a certain baseline.
"The first 50, 75, 100 probes give us virtually nothing on a complex human sample, but the next 100 from there give us a tremendous amount of data, and the last 100 finish it off," he said.
Nautilus, which is pre-revenue, reported a net loss of $15.8 million, or $.13 per share, in the second quarter of 2023, compared to a net loss of $14.7 million, or $.12 per share, in the year-ago period and beating the consensus Wall Street estimate of a $.15 loss per share.
Nautilus's Q2 R&D spending was $11.9 million, up 34 percent from $8.9 million a year ago, while its SG&A costs were $7.1 million, up 8 percent from $6.6 million in Q2 2022.
The company ended the quarter with $73.8 million in cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash and $91.2 million in short-term investments.
In Wednesday morning trading on the Nasdaq, Nautilus shares were up 2 percent to $3.22.