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Thermo Fisher Launches New Sequencing Instruments, Readies Clinical Mass Spec System

SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb) — Thermo Fisher Scientific has launched two new sequencing instruments based on its semiconductor sequencing technology — the Ion GeneStudio S5 Prime and the Ion GeneStudio S5 Plus.

In addition, during a presentation at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference on Tuesday, CEO Marc Casper said that the firm plans to launch its mass spectrometry-based clinical analyzer later this year, which would make it the first sample-to-answer mass spec. Thermo Fisher previewed the instrument last summer, and Casper said that the development of the instrument constituted one of Thermo's largest ever R&D programs.

The new sequencing instruments use similar underlying technology as the S5 instrument, except with upgraded compute capabilities that enable increased output and faster analysis, according to Andy Felton, vice president, product management of clinical next-generation sequencing and oncology.

The GeneStudio S5 Plus has a maximum throughput of 30 gigabases, or 160 million reads, while the S5 Prime has a maximum output of 50 gigabases, or 260 million reads.

The firm also launched a new chip, the Ion 550, which has a sequencing run time of 2.5 hours. Analysis time varies depending on the platform, chip, and application, but for instance, with the S5 Plus, sequencing and analysis can be done using the 540 chip in 10 hours, Felton said.

Thermo also announced this week that it planned to launch an upgraded AmpliSeq chemistry, called AmpliSeq HD. Felton said the new chemistry would initially enable custom liquid biopsy and FFPE applications, allowing customers to add or remove content as relevant biomarkers change. It will also be able to detect variants at minor allele frequencies of 0.1 percent and below and will have higher accuracy than the previous AmpliSeq chemistry, Felton said.

Earlier this week, Thermo and Illumina announced that they would partner to make the AmpliSeq chemistry compatible with Illumina's sequencers. The deal does not include Thermo's AmpliSeq HD chemistry, however. And, during a breakout session following Casper's presentation at the conference here, he affirmed that the agreement did not indicate the company was backing away from its own sequencing technology, citing the launch this week of the two instruments. There is "good momentum with Ion Torrent" sequencing technology, particularly in the areas of oncology, noninvasive prenatal testing, and applied markets, he said.

The licensing deal with Illumina for its AmpliSeq chemistry would be a growth opportunity for Thermo, Casper added.

Casper said another highlight of last year was the company's growth in emerging markets, in particular China, which he expects to continue. The company opened a Precision Medicine Customer Experience Center in Guangzhou, China last year to capture some of the estimated $9 billion market opportunity in the country.

In addition, he said that the integration of Patheon, the contract development and manufacturing organization it acquired last August for $7.2 billion was "off to a good start," and the company is on track to achieve its year-one targets.

For the coming year, Casper said the firm has identified several key customer needs to focus on: a better understanding of protein structure and function, applying precision medicine in the real world, sample-to-answer solutions, more accurate and cost-effective diagnostics, and effective data management and analytics.