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Chinese Startup Archean-Tech Launches Trilobite-100 Sequencer


NEW YORK – Chinese next-generation sequencing technology startup Archean-Tech has launched its first product, a low-throughput sequencer named Trilobite-100.

With a minimum data output of 1 Gb per run and a sequencing turnaround time of as little as five hours, Trilobite-100 appears to exclusively target the Chinese domestic low-throughput NGS market at the moment.

Shenzhen-based Archean-Tech, which live-streamed the launch event for the sequencer on WeChat last December, did not respond to requests for comment regarding its technology and business plans.

During the launch event, Archean-Tech Chief Technology Officer Xiangkun Sui offered more information about the platform. According to a statement from Archean-Tech, he has worked in the NGS industry for more than 10 years and was involved in the development of several sequencers by MGI Tech, a unit of BGI and the leading domestic Chinese NGS player, including the BGISeq-500, BGISeq-50, and DNBSeq-T7.

According to Sui, Archean-Tech, which was established in December 2020, developed a prototype of the Trilobite-100 in late 2021 and has been improving the platform since then. The benchtop sequencer has a footprint of less than 1 square meter (10.7 square feet), he said, and supports both Chinese and English operational interfaces.

Notably, Sui said Trilobite-100 can use two types of library amplification, including the traditional bridge amplification method used by Illumina and a new, proprietary method called Geneknot the company developed in-house.

In a statement, Archean-Tech said that Geneknot uses in situ rolling circle amplification of libraries on a flow cell, minimizing the risk of index hopping and duplicated reads caused by PCR. MGI Tech's DNBSeq also uses rolling circle amplification but deposits DNA nanoballs on a patterned array flow cell after the amplification process.

Additionally, Sui said the ability to amplify libraries onboard makes it feasible for the company to develop integrated, sample-to-report platforms in the future.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization database, Archean-Tech filed a global patent application titled "DNA molecular signal amplification and nucleic acid sequencing method based on solid-phase carrier," which appears to describe the Geneknot approach.

According to the patent application, the method involves immobilizing carboxylated DNA primers on a surface-aminated solid-phase carrier using a condensation reaction of carboxyl and amino groups. A circular DNA library then binds to the primers in a base-complementary manner, and amplification reagents are added to the carrier for rolling circle amplification.

Rolling circle amplification avoids errors introduced by bridge PCR amplification, according to the document, so sequencing accuracy is improved. In addition, the duplicate ratio caused by bridge PCR as well as sequencing costs are reduced.

Archean-Tech also said in a statement that the company has optimized sequencing enzymes to develop "a new, scarless sequencing chemistry that aims to achieve longer read lengths while improving base accuracy."

In designing the platform’s fluidics, Sui said the company incorporated a prewashing step prior to reagents flowing through the instrument to prevent cross contamination. He also said the instrument's temperature control was optimized and is able to change the reaction temperatures within 10 seconds. In addition, the company has developed its own proprietary basecalling algorithm that was optimized for accuracy using AI.

Overall, Sui said the company has filed 18 patents or patent applications pertaining to its core technology.

In terms of consumables, Sui said there are two types of flow cells available for Trilobite-100, called SSC and RSC. Both have two independent lanes to accommodate different samples, and both are compatible with traditional bridge amplification and Geneknot amplification.

The company is offering single-end (SE) 50, SE 100, and paired-end (PE) 50 cycle kits for both flow cells. Specifically, for the SSC flow cell, which can produce 20 million reads, the data output is 1 Gb, 2 Gb, and 2 Gb per run when paired with the SE50, SE100, and PE50 kits, respectively. The sequencing turnaround time for the three kits is five hours, 10 hours, and 10 hours, respectively.

Meanwhile, the RSC flow cell, which can generate 40 million reads, can produce 2 Gb, 4 Gb, and 4 Gb of data when using the SE50, SE100, and PE50 kits, respectively, with a sequencing turnaround time of seven, 13, and 13 hours.

With the SE50 kit, Archean-Tech claimed that more than 90 percent of the reads have quality scores of Q30 and above. Meanwhile, with the SE100 and PE50 kits, more than 85 percent of the reads are above Q30.

Trilobite-100’s performance with customers remains unclear, though. During the launch, Sui showed an internal quality benchmarking experiment where the company tested Trilobite-100 with eight NIPT trisomy 21 testing samples, running the SE100 kit using both the bridge amplification and Geneknot amplification reagents. The results showed that both sequencing modalities delivered results that were 100 concordant with the actual clinical results.

Archean-Tech said the company is hoping to penetrate the Chinese low-throughput sequencing market with the platform by targeting community hospitals that wish to implement NGS-based tests but lack adequate funding and expertise. The target applications are reproductive health, microbiology, and oncology testing, the firm noted.

Moving forward, Archean-Tech plans to develop an integrated sample-to-report platform that enables sample processing, DNA extraction, library prep, sequencing, and data analysis in a fully automated workflow, Sui said.

It remains to be seen how Archean-Tech will fare with its competitors, most of which are also based in Shenzhen, in the increasingly crowded Chinese NGS market. MGI, for example, already has its ultra-high-speed DNBSeq-G99, which was approved as a medical device by China's National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) last year, geared toward the mid-to-low throughput market.

Another sequencing firm, GeneMind Biosciences, also launched its single-molecule DNA sequencer, GenoCare 1600, which already nabbed NMPA approval for noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT).

Little public information is available regarding Archean-Tech's size and funding. According to the Chinese job search website Boss Zhipin, Archean-Tech had about RMB 6.5 million ($920,000) in startup funding and has raised an unknown amount of Series A financing. Archean-Tech did not respond to requests for comment.