Pacific Biosciences of California, Inc., (NASDAQ:PACB) a pioneer and leader in long-read sequencing using its Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT®) Technology, today announced it has launched a new nucleic acid sequencing platform. The Sequel™ System provides higher throughput, more scalability, a reduced footprint and lower sequencing project costs compared to the PacBio® RS II System, while maintaining the existing benefits of the company’s SMRT Technology. Pacific Biosciences will showcase the new product at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting taking place in Baltimore, Maryland beginning October 6, 2015.
The core of the Sequel System is the capacity of its redesigned SMRT Cells, which contain one million zero-mode waveguides (ZMWs) at launch, compared to 150,000 ZMWs in the PacBio RS II. Active individual polymerases are immobilized within the ZMWs, providing windows to observe and record DNA sequencing in real time. With about seven times as many reads per SMRT Cell as the PacBio RS II, customers should be able to realize lower costs and shorter timelines for sequencing projects, with approximately half the up-front capital investment compared to previous technology. The Sequel System occupies a smaller footprint — less than one-third the size and weight — compared to the PacBio RS II. Since the new system is built on the company’s established SMRT Technology, most aspects of the sequencing workflow are unchanged.
Michael Hunkapiller, Ph.D., CEO of Pacific Biosciences, commented: “We are extremely proud to introduce the Sequel System, which provides access to the existing benefits of SMRT Sequencing, including long reads, high consensus accuracy, uniform coverage, and integrated methylation information – a set of core attributes first pioneered with the PacBio RS. The system’s lower price and smaller footprint represent our continued commitment to leveraging the scalability of our technology and the unique characteristics of SMRT Sequencing. Moreover, with its lower cost of goods (approximately a quarter of that of the PacBio RS II) we expect to be able to achieve substantial gross margin improvement and move more quickly toward profitability.”
“We will continue to support our PacBio RS II customers, and we expect to introduce improvements in sample prep, sequencing chemistry, and software that will extend the performance of that system, as we have done each year since the initial commercialization of the PacBio RS in 2011 and PacBio RS II in 2013. We expect to make similar, substantial performance improvements each year for the Sequel System,” added Dr. Hunkapiller. “In addition, the Sequel architecture provides the ability to scale throughput by substantially varying the number of ZMWs on future SMRT Cells, thereby optimizing throughput and operating costs for specific applications.”
The Sequel System is designed for projects such as rapidly and cost-effectively generating high-quality, whole-genome de novo assemblies. It can provide characterization of a wide variety of genomic variation types, including those in complex regions not accessible with short read or synthetic long-range sequencing technologies, while simultaneously revealing epigenetic information. The system can also be used to generate data for full-length transcriptomes and targeted transcripts using the company’s Iso-SeqTM protocol. The Sequel System’s increased throughput should also facilitate applications of SMRT Technology in metagenomics and targeted gene applications for which interrogation of larger numbers of individual DNA molecules is important.
The Sequel System has been developed as part of the company’s collaboration with F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd (Roche) to ultimately provide a nucleic acid sequencing system for use in human in vitro diagnostics. Under that agreement, Roche agreed to pay Pacific Biosciences a total of $40 million in milestone payments related to the development of the Sequel System. The company previously reported that it has earned $20 million to date, and now expects to earn the remaining $20 million during the fourth quarter of 2015.
“We congratulate Pacific Biosciences on the launch of the Sequel instrument,” said Dan Zabrowski, Head of Roche Tissue Diagnostics and Head of Roche Sequencing Unit. “This new sequencing platform has significant advantages over existing commercial platforms, and will be used as the basis for the Roche sequencing instrument being developed initially for clinical research, followed later by an IVD instrument launch. We anticipate the initial launch in the second half of 2016.”
Pacific Biosciences expects to begin limited shipments of the Sequel System in the United States during the fourth quarter of this year and start scaling the manufacturing process for the Sequel Systems and the new SMRT Cells during early 2016. Shipments outside the U.S. are expected to commence thereafter. A portion of the initial Sequel instruments will be delivered to Roche to expand its internal assay development program. The U.S. list price for the Sequel System is $350,000. It is currently available for Research Use Only.
Pacific Biosciences will host a workshop titled “Addressing Hidden Heritability through Long Read Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing” at the ASHG conference on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 from 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern Time at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, Baltimore. The event will be hosted by Michael Hunkapiller and Jonas Korlach from Pacific Biosciences, and include talks by Richard Gibbs from Baylor College of Medicine and Richard Wilson from Washington University in St. Louis.