Friday, February 26, 2021
10X Genomics had an online event Wednesday called Xperience (as far as I could tell no Jimmy Hendrix music was used, a missed opportunity!) to lay out their development roadmap. This largely paralleled the presentation given at J.P. Morgan, but there were a few new bits and of course much more technical detail to whet the appetites of scientists -- and judging from a number of very positive tweets I saw today they were successful in that goal. Some of the 10X management was kind enough to walk me through the deck earlier this week as well as permission to borrow images from it, so this summary is based on that as well as watching the presentation. While their name is 10X, the company emphasized progress on three axes: scale, resolution and access and that progress across the three different platforms.
Tuesday, February 09, 2021
There's a question that others pop my way pretty much every year around J.P. Morgan: would I ever attend myself? I'll confess it never occurred to me before I was asked, but that isn't necessarily a deal breaker. I foolishly didn't attend AGBT until 2013 when Alexis Borisy (then CEO of Warp Drive) suggested I go -- I think it was mostly because he thought it was a good investment and probably only secondarily to keep me off the ski slopes for a week -- I shattered my knee just after AGBT 2012 ended. It's an interesting but complex question which I will answer one way here, but freely admit that over coffee I could be nudged one way or the other.
Monday, February 08, 2021
I claimed in my Miscellanea piece that I was one post away from being done with J.P. Morgan -- oops, forgot I had drafted a minor screed on data display which I'll push out before the last piece - particularly since I hinted I would be taking Genapsys to task on this subject. Unexpectedly good timing too: maybe new Genapsys CEO Jason Myer's first big initiative can be to fix this plot!
Saturday, February 06, 2021
Before J.P. Morgan is truly a month ago I should clean up some loose ends as a penultimate post driven by this year's virtual conference (the last post isn't exactly time sensitive). In contrast to the single company focused items that preceded it, this is a grab bag of minor observations and notes.
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Almost done with my J.P. Morgan summaries -- this will be the last focused on a specific company: nanoString. They wish to emphasize that they are becoming the company for spatial analysis of DNA, RNA and proteins in biological samples. They also want us to differentiate that space into two segments: profiling and imaging. Profiling gathers spatial information from regions of multiple cells; imaging in their lingo covers spatial techniques with single cell or subcellular localization. In both cases nanoString is betting heavily on oligo-tagged antibodies to enable deep multiplexing of protein detection to be integrated with RNA and DNA detection.
Monday, January 25, 2021
Genapsys' J.P. Morgan presentation by CEO Hesaam Esfandyarpour focused on their story of delivering a compact sequencer based on electronic detection that offers low capital, low cost sequencing. There were two bits of specific product news, but mostly general painting of a rosy picture.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
PacBio CEO Christian Henry’s presentation at J.P. Morgan wasn't rich in technical specifics. But he gave a very bullish portrait of a company aiming for the stars. A conflict reminder: he’s a member of the Board of the Strain Factory that employs me, though I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting him.
The biggest news is a broad partnership with Invitae four clinical human genome sequencing. The only specific here is that this is not the whole enchilada; platform development will take place both within the Invitae collaboration and outside it. What might that development be?
Between Henry’s comments in the Q&A and a few info crumbs on slides there will be pushed to further tune all the canister. Her mentioned efforts on dyes and further improving SMRTcell loading efficiency. There was chatter on Twitter about an overdue update to improve HiFi yields.
Henry talked of the importance of increasing ZMW packing, but gave no specifics other than to suggest this is more "development" than "innovation" -- this was in response to a question asking if technical breakthroughs are required. But we are left wondering on a timetable as well as what the next density might be; four-fold to 32M wouldn’t be surprising on naïve geometry grounds.
I suspect a huge area of joint effort with Invitae will be to automate HiFi library production. The current protocol is long, manual and labor intensive - not at all appealing for lease scale clinical use. How much of that will be retained as proprietary to Invitae will remain to be seen. Henry claims that the Invitae effort will be separate but coordinated with existing development efforts; prior plans have not been shelved or diverted to support Invitae. A major software effort to support clinical operations is a given. PacBio has separate workflows for SNP and SV calling and those must be integrated and a clinician-friendly report generated.
Henry believes that the new Sequel IIe will be the dominant product shipped going forward. It will be interesting to see which of the older workflows PacBio updates and moves into the on-board compute. For example, if you want to call methylation you must export BAM files with kinetics data, which are predicted to be five-fold fatter. If the methylation calling happened on board, then that extra processing and extra data would be eliminated.
Similarly, workflows such as microbial assembly are still based around Continuous Long Reads (CLR). Henry didn't mention CLR once (I think). While I doubt they would ever dump it altogether like they did Strobe Reads, it would seem likely that it won't get much attention. Oxford Nanopore can beat them on very long reads and their single molecule accuracy is much higher; far better to focus on the CCS/HiFi reads where PacBio can deliver much higher accuracy. It will be interesting to see if PacBio pushes the HiFi fragment read length longer. On the one hand it will be more challenging to work with longer fragments and to routinely get enough circuits around them to deliver HiFi quality data. Twenty five kilobases is a nice size for many applications, but there will always be incremental value for going to thirty or forty or beyond.
In response to a question about $1000 genomes, Henry described it as "just a number" around "where it makes sense" in high throughput applications. He says the Invitae collaboration will be able to drive prices below $1000. But he also pushed the idea that a PacBio genome is a truly clinical grade genome and has higher value than genomes produced on other platforms. He argued that this higher value, in terms of higher diagnostic yield for rare diseases, will be more attractive to payers and that there will be a net benefit to the healthcare industry by ending diagnostic odysseys sooner. He vowed to continue generating "diagnostic proof statements" to provide evidence to support the higher value claim.
Should be interesting to watch, particularly if you have a front row seat in front of a Sequel IIe,