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PacBio Hints at Low-Cost Future Instruments; Aims to Capture 10 Percent of NGS Market

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By Julia Karow

Pacific Biosciences aims to capture about 10 percent of the next-gen sequencing market over the next several years, according to a company executive. The official also hinted that the firm, which is on track to ship its first commercial sequencer to customers during the first half of this year, might launch lower-cost instruments in the future.

As previously reported (IS 12/7/2010), PacBio is currently beta-testing its first instrument, the PacBio RS, at 11 customer sites.

Over the next several months, the company plans to deliver the final chemistry and software, validate and verify the feature set it has promised for the instrument, upgrade its beta test sites to full commercial specifications, and ship the first commercial instruments, said CEO Hugh Martin at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week.

"All this is going to happen in the first half [of the year], and we are right on track for that to occur," he said during his presentation, which was webcast.

The company predicts that customers, on average, will purchase about $300,000 worth of consumables per year for the instrument, he said.

Martin said that internally, PacBio is now achieving average read lengths of at least 1,000 bases, which it will roll out to early-access customers after validation. It is also achieving a consensus accuracy of 99.9999 percent internally, though it will be 99.99 percent at launch.

He pointed out that the PacBio RS, which has a list price of $695,000, is merely the company's "entry point" in the market.

"We were in a hurry to get a system to market, so cost was not an issue we were concerned about because of the functionality," he said. "Over time, there is no reason why we can't build an instrument that costs $50,000, $100,000, $300,000, so we have got a tremendous portfolio opportunity ahead of us over time."

Martin predicted that the market for next-generation sequencing is going to grow over the next five years from about 1,400 instruments installed today to about 8,000 instruments, with the ag-bio and research markets growing the most, and the types of users expanding.

"For PacBio's wildest dreams to happen, all we have to do is capture 10 percent of that little circle, which I think is eminently doable," he said.

— Edward Winnick contributed reporting to this article.

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