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BGI Halts Revolocity Launch, Cuts Complete Genomics Staff as Part of Strategic Shift

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – BGI has made "substantial" staff cuts at its Complete Genomics subsidiary in Mountain View, California and has put the commercialization of the Revolocity high-throughput human genome sequencing system on hold, GenomeWeb has learned.

The move is part of a change in strategy that turns Complete Genomics into an R&D organization in support of BGI's products and clinical assays, in particular its recently launched desktop sequencer, BGISEQ-500.

Cliff Reid, who will resign as CEO of Complete Genomics but is staying at the company's helm for the moment, told GenomeWeb that BGI underwent a strategic reevaluation after its chief executive, Jun Wang, left this past summer. As a result of this, the organization decided that Complete Genomics, rather than launch the Revolocity high-throughput sequencing system, should conduct R&D on behalf of BGI.

Complete Genomics first unveiled the Revolocity system, which has a list price of $12 million and can sequence 10,000 human genomes per year, in June. At the time, two organizations, Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands and Mater Health Services in Australia, had ordered the system, and a third customer, the Epilepsy Society in the UK, was announced in October. All three customers were scheduled to receive their systems in the first half of 2016.

Reid said Complete Genomics is "working with them right now and figuring out a solution," but he said that "there will definitely be delays" in the installation of the systems. Complete Genomics is also not taking any new orders for Revolocity at the moment.

Complete Genomics employees were informed about the changes and staff cuts last Friday. Reid declined to disclose how many staff members were let go but said there was "a substantial reduction" of the company's workforce. Following the acquisition by BGI in 2013, Complete Genomics had approximately 200 employees.

Going forward, Complete Genomics will help with the rollout of BGI's desktop sequencing platform, BGISEQ-500, which BGI expects to start shipping in early 2016, initially only in China. Both Revolocity and BGISEQ-500, which was released in October, are based on Complete Genomics' core sequencing technology.

In addition, Complete Genomics will help with the development of clinical assays, including advances to the NIFTY noninvasive prenatal test. Reid said BGI is working on a wide variety of clinical tests, such as cancer panels, hereditary disease gene panels, and an HPV assay, and Complete Genomics will assist with those.