Feeling out the market for next-generation sequencing services, Cogenics will install a Roche 454 Genome Sequencer FLX at one of its European sequencing service facilities, its parent company Clinical Data said last week.
Cogenics and Roche Diagnostics will also co-market sequencing services on the instrument.
The instrument, Cogenics’ first next-generation sequencer, will go to the company’s Genome Express unit near Grenoble, France, which the firm acquired a year ago.
Cogenics’ Genome Express is currently providing contract sequencing services for the French component of the International Solanaceae Genome Project, a project to sequence the tomato genome, and the GS FLX will initially help sequence tomato BACs for this study.
“We thought it made sense, since we had a base of activity with those contracts in place, to put our first instrument in a place where the 454 [system] would have the most use,” Robert Bondaryk, Cogenics’ senior vice president and general manager, told In Sequence last week.
Depending on customer demand, the company might later install additional 454 sequencers at its other three sequencing facilities in Houston, Texas; Five Science Park in New Haven, Conn., and in Hope End, Takeley, outside of London.
“We know that there is a lot of capacity [of 454 sequencers] already out there, so we are going to be cautious, and we will build our capacity to demand,” Bondaryk said.
Cogenics is not the first sequencing service provider to install a 454 instrument. Agencourt Bioscience has had a 454 GS 20 for a while; GATC Biotech of Konstanz, Germany, installed a GS FLX in February and said it had also ordered an Illumina Genetic Analyzer; and Eurofins-Medigenomix-MWG Biotech said in November that it acquired a 454 GS 20.
“I think what everybody has figured out is that the world is probably going to have an insatiable appetite for sequencing,” Bondaryk said.
Cogenics also plans to offer sequencing services on the GS FLX worldwide for applications ranging from whole-genome sequencing to transcriptional profiling.
Roche’s help in marketing the service could benefit both companies, Bondaryk said. For example, potential customers for the Genome Sequencer could first test the technology through a service project with Cogenics, much like potential customers in the US have done fee-for-service projects with 454’s service center in Connecticut prior to purchasing an instrument.
“Roche strategically over the years … has not gravitated towards a service model,” Bondaryk said. “That, I think, is one of the reasons why they want to work with us.”
“I think what everybody has figured out is that the world is probably going to have an insatiable appetite for sequencing.”
Last week, Roche said it will acquire 454 Life Sciences (see other article in this issue).
The reason Cogenics chose 454’s instrument as its first next-gen sequencer over Illumina’s Genetic Analyzer or Applied Biosystems’ SOLiD sequencer is that it believes it has been distributed broadly enough to be well established in the research community.
“If you understand our model, and most of the outsourcing industry’s model, we don’t need to be on the absolute cutting edge of technology,” Bondaryk said. “In general, we like to use the technology that our customers already have confidence in. … So we are not going to leap on unknown, or unfinished, or not production-quality [technology], and certainly not technology that has not been vetted.”
One important criterion was the existence of peer-reviewed publications with data generated on 454’s technology so that “anyone can go out and scrutinize the performance and quality of the data that that instrument produces,” he said.
Nevertheless, Cogenics is keeping an eye on the other technologies. “Of course we are evaluating, and we are in discussions with all vendors just about all the time,” he said.
Cogenics is one of three divisions that Clinical Data formed about a year ago. It combines certain operations of Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, Lark Technologies, Icoria, and Genome Express, and provides pharmacogenomics and molecular biology services.