This article was originally published Jan. 8.
SAN FRANCISCO — Qiagen's CEO Peer Schatz said this week during a presentation at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference here that the company is on track to launch a clinically oriented next-gen sequencing system in the middle of this year.
Schatz added, however, that the platform is "simply a part of a complete solution" that involves leveraging Qiagen's broad array of tests, whether based on real-time PCR or sequencing, and "making that the complete solution for molecular diagnostics and biomedical research."
The company in November launched a series of cancer panels (CSN 11/7/2012), marking the first products to arise from a next-gen sequencing initiative that it kicked off in June when it purchased Intelligent Bio-Systems (CSN 6/27/2012).
This week, Schatz said that Qiagen is "increasingly adding next-gen sequencing panels to our collaborations" with pharmaceutical companies as part of a package that often includes both real-time PCR and next-gen sequencing panels.
Currently the company is collaborating with a number of pharmaceutical companies — including Amgen, AstraZeneca, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Merck — to develop PCR-based companion diagnostics for cancer-related biomarkers such as EGFR, KRAS, BRAF, PI3K, JAK2, and BCR-ABL.
Schatz this week reiterated previous claims that some of the features of the upcoming sequencing system include random access and continuous loading, features that are attractive to clinical customers.
He also indicated that the company will offer two versions of automated sample prep for the sequencing platform: a higher-throughput version that runs on the QiaSymphony system, which can process up to 96 samples at once; and a lower-throughput sample-prep system that runs on the QiaCube system.
Schatz did not provide any performance specifications for the sequencing system and said that the company is focused on "what's coming out of the system, not the performance specs." Nevertheless, he said it "will be competitive" with other systems on the market.
One way he foresees implementing the system is as a reflex to an RT-PCR test. "If someone is negative on an RT-PCR assay, you could reflex that to a next-gen panel to figure out what you want to do next," he said.