Saturday, February 06, 2021

J.P. Morgan: Miscellania

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.
Oxford Nanopore wasn't on the agenda but ended up making a splash, with Nvidia announcing an expansion of their collaboration so that some high end GPU hardware will be paired with the PromethION to provide real-time basecalling.  That makes a ton of sense, but underscores how ONT's "we're nearly zero capital outlay" model is crashing up against the compute demands of the increasingly complex basecalling models.  Going to even tighter pore layout geometries will push the pressure higher -- a future MinION flowcell producing today's PromethION flowcell worth of data is going to require more than a few kilodollars of GPU box!

How companies are picked for J.P. Morgan is a mystery to me.  Presumably for public companies it has something to do with which ones Morgan has analysts following.  But are there also tryouts for companies that would like analyst coverage?  Genapsys is the only private company that interested me, but there must have been others.  There are too many private companies to try to list, but for public companies there were a handful that I thought might have been here but weren't and I would have paid attention to.

BioNano Genomics is one obvious one.  They've recently been on a tear in the markets (BNGO, which makes me want to say "bongo").  They made the somewhat curious decision to counterprogram J.P. Morgan with their user conference.  On the one hand the Venn diagram overlap of "people who follow JPM closely" and "scientists interested in Saphyr scientific details" is probably small (though not empty, since I fall in it).  But it does mean having potential news and buzz overshadowed by news and buzz coming out of JPM.  There are only so many weeks in the year to have a conference, but perhaps this is one to leave alone?  

The other notable public 'omics sector company I thought of is Fluidigm, still with offerings in PCR, next-gen library prep, single cell, and proteomics.  I've probably let them slip too far off my radar -- when a friend worked there he didn't let that happen!  

I skimmed a bunch of presentations -- anything that might be a genomics company by their name (many were testing companies), both my former employers with talks, and the big research reagent houses.  ThermoFisher's talk did have a picture of an Ion Torrent in a collage of other images.  As noted by some others, Agilent killed off LaserGen back in May (which slipped totally past me) so not much interesting going on there.  QIAGEN didn't have any surprises either.

One interesting line of analyst questioning in the Illumina, 10X Genomics and NanoString is the question of to what degree are dollars going to flow to pure sequencing and to what degree to the makers of high value-adding library prep like 10X and NanoString.  A corollary is to what degree will dropping reagent costs -- such as Illumina rolling out the v1.5 flowcells last summer -- drive new uptake of sequencing in general but also enable more labs to use their 10X and NanoString boxes.   All the CEOs gave relatively diplomatic answers -- there was no banging of a shoe accompanied with "we will bury you!" on the audio tapes.  But it would seem to be an important tension to watch.  Actually, I have some speculative fiction to write on that very topic for a future post.

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