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Roche 454 GS Junior Sales Increase in 2011, While GS FLX Reagent Revenue Drops


By Julia Karow

This article was originally published Feb. 1.

Sales of Roche's 454 GS Junior increased in 2011 while GS FLX reagent sales declined following the system's long-read upgrade, resulting in decreased overall revenue for 454, according to a company official.

Revenues of Roche Applied Science's genomic analysis business, which consists of the 454 Life Sciences sequencing and Roche NimbleGen microarray units, decreased 11 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year, excluding currency effects, the company reported last week.

Applied Science's total revenues decreased 3 percent year-over-year in 2011, to CHF 740 million ($809 million), which the company attributed to a year-over-year decline of H1N1 influenza virus testing, increased competition in sequencing, and a slowdown in research funding, according to its annual report.

Roche did not provide a number for genomic analysis revenues, but a graph in a company presentation indicated that full-year sales for the business were on the order of CHF150 million ($163 million).

For the fourth quarter of 2011, Roche Applied Science sales declined six percent, to CHF 196 million, from CHF 222 million during the year-ago quarter. Roche did not break out quarterly revenue for the genomic analysis business.

According to Thomas Schinecker, president of 454 Life Sciences, more than 30 percent of GS FLX users upgraded to the long-read GS FLX+ last year, which the company launched in the summer. The upgrade increases the system's output by more than 50 percent at roughly the same cost per run.

However, delays in the adoption of the new long read chemistry "into routine use," along with the throughput increase and cost savings for customers, led to a decline in GS FLX reagent sales compared to 2010, Schinecker told In Sequence.

For the GS Junior, despite increased competition from desktop sequencers launched by Illumina and Life Technologies last year, 454 saw "significant double-digit growth" in both instrument and reagent sales over 2010. Key areas of growth for GS Junior applications are amplicon sequencing for infectious disease, virology, or pathogen detection; whole bacterial genome sequencing; and metagenomics, he said.

Overall, researchers have focused their use of 454's sequencing systems on applications such as targeted amplicon sequencing, de novo sequencing, full-length transcriptome sequencing, and metagenomics, both in basic research and in clinical research laboratories, according to Schinecker.

This year, Roche plans to add clinical research applications for the 454 platform. Specifically, it intends to launch a GS GType gene sequencing primer set for leukemia research that will include four genes — TET2, CBL, KRAS, and RUNX1 — according to the presentation.

The primer set will be Roche's second assay for the 454 sequencing platform, following the GS GType HLA primer set for HLA genotyping, which the company launched last year (CSN 4/5/2011).

The company also plans to bolster its DNA sequencing business by acquiring Illumina. Last week, Roche launched a hostile takeover bid for the company (IS 1/31/2012).

Have topics you'd like to see covered in In Sequence? Contact the editor at jkarow [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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