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10x Genomics' Fully Automated Single-Cell Library Prep Platform Coming in Early 2020

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NEW YORK – 10x Genomics will soon be releasing a fully automated version of its Chromium Controller single-cell library preparation instrument, CEO Serge Saxonov said.

On a conference call last week following the release of the firm's third quarter financial results, Saxonov said the Chromium Connect, which combines the Chromium Controller with automated liquid handling, a thermal cycler, and a magnetic plate for bead purification, will be coming out early next year.

"It's walk-away automation," he said in a follow-up interview. Chromium connect is designed for "pharma-oriented workflows," he said, but could also be useful for high-throughput labs and service providers.

According to a product brochure posted on 10x's website, Chromium Connect will take in cell suspensions and put out single-cell libraries ready for Illumina sequencing with less than 1 hour of hands-on time. It can run up to eight samples per run, using automation-specific reagents and consumables.

The instrument comes with a touch-screen computer and is compatible with laboratory information management systems for experiment tracking and error logging.

Initially, Chromium Connect will only be compatible with the Next GEM Single Cell Gene Expression v3.1 assay kit, but a 10x spokesperson said the firm will add additional assays over time. The instrument will also support plate preparation for Kapa Library Quantification kits from Roche, for quality control, although that assay requires a quantitative PCR instrument, which the Chromium Connect does not provide. Whether 10x plans to support preparation of other types of assay kits from other suppliers is unclear.

Chromium Connect is one of several products in 10x's pipeline. The firm is investing heavily in R&D: in the third quarter, the firm's spending in that area doubled to $22.2 million.

10x officials did not say how much Chromium Connect would cost. Chief Commercial Officer Brad Crutchfield said, "It's a niche product that I think you're going to have a higher [consumables] pull-through in there to justify the capital expenditure."

Saxonov also didn't provide more detail about the instrument rollout and whether it would be available to early-access users before the "early 2020" timeframe.

Saxonov also said during the call that the firm is on track to begin shipping its Visium Spatial Gene Expression platform before the end of the year. During the Q&A portion of the call, he told analysts that the firm is looking towards getting Visium to work with formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples, the most prevalent sample type found in clinical pathology. At launch, Visium will only work with fresh-frozen tissue sections. "There's no fundamental reason why the technology can't work with FFPE," Saxonov said. "That's certainly something we seriously think about and keep in our sights."

Crutchfield added that among the customers already ordering Visium reagent kits, 20 percent were new to 10x, a number he said he expects to grow over time.

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