Indian sequencing service company SciGenom is aiming to take advantage of a growing demand for sequencing services, particularly in the field of plant genomics for agriculturally important crops, principal scientist at the firm, VL Ramprasad, told In Sequence.
He estimated that the sequencing services market in India is around $20 million and growing.
Chennai-based SciGenom was launched in 2010, initially offering Sanger sequencing services on the ABI 3730XL. Last year, the firm added next-generation sequencing to its mix and now has Roche's 454 GS FLX, one Illumina MiSeq, and one HiSeq 2500.
The sequencing services market in India remains largely untapped, said Ramprasad. Aside from SciGenom, there are a handful of next-gen sequencing service providers in India, most notably Bangalore-based Genotypic, he said. Many of the other providers do not have their own platforms, so they have to outsource the sequencing, he added.
Additionally, while SciGenom also competes with the larger providers like BGI and Korea's Macrogen, the Indian government requires special permission to ship human biological samples out of the country. "That gives us a big edge," he said.
Currently, around 80 percent of SciGenom's customers are academic researchers, with about 20 percent of clients in industry, but Ramprasad said the number of industry customers is steadily increasing.
The firm's customers have been primarily in the agriculture field, but over the last several years there has been a rise in clinical and translational research, as well.
"The India government spends a huge amount of investment and funding in agricultural research," Ramprasad said. "The basic economy is driven by agriculture," so most projects are plant sequencing of commercial crops, he said.
As a result of the firm's growing clinical customers, it is now spinning out a separate company called MedGenome, which will seek CLIA certification and offer exome sequencing, whole-genome sequencing, mitochondrial genome sequencing, and targeted panels, Ramprasad said.
He said MedGenome would announce an initial round of funding in the next couple of months, which it would use in part to invest in sequencing platforms.
The majority of SciGenom's sequencing requests are for RNA-seq projects to identify important genes in crops related to things like drought tolerance, yield, nutrition, or pest resistance. Exome sequencing, primarily of human samples, is the second most-requested service.
SciGenom uses the HiSeq 2500 for RNA-seq, exome and whole-genome sequencing projects. The fast turnaround is particularly important for the firm's clinical customers, Ramprasad said.
SciGenom also gets a fair number of requests for RAD-seq, or restriction-site associated DNA sequencing, Ramprasad said. Researchers can use the technique for genotyping-by-sequencing, because it enables them to assess a large number of genetic markers distributed across a plant genome. Restriction enzymes cut the genome at certain sites, and only those sites are sequenced and can then be used to identify SNPs and map them to traits.
Ramprasad said that the MiSeq is primarily used for such RAD-seq projects, as well as 16S rRNA metagenomics and targeted sequencing. The firm's GS FLX is only used for de novo sequencing of higher eukaryotes, he said.