Monday, January 17, 2022

Could Hercule Poirot Crack The Case of Genapsys' Business Strategy?

If you love a good mystery, let me try to draw you in to the enigma of Genapsys' business strategy.  Genapsys presented last week at J.P. Morgan, but nobody who wasn't there knows what they said or presented.  Keeping their future plans hush-hush is a strange course for a company that hasn't caught fire and is about to face multiple well-funded new competition.
The lack of information around Genapsys also reflects the new, more restrictive environment around the J.P. Morgan Conference.  In prior years it was possible for anyone to listen to the presentations either live or as a later audiocast or videocast.  But some money bug at J.P. Morgan decided that with everything virtual, they needed to squeeze everyone but their clients, so it's been much harder to access anything.  

Now for public companies there is some law that means we can't be kept out: Regulation FD.  This U.S. law says that public companies can't selectively disclose material information -- they can't just tell the stock analysts important dirt but must share it with everyone.  Now the interpretation of this is subject to some interpretation, but it means that the public companies will have some form of their presentation easily accessible in the Investor Relations section of their website.  In most cases this will be the slide deck, but sometimes it will be the audio or video.  Of course this is incomplete and if something major slipped out in the Q&A then a company would have to get a press release out or face either the SEC or a horde of bottom feeding law firms (or worst, both).

But Genapsys is a private company, so it is perfectly legal for them to not not release anything.  And J.P. Morgan doesn't make available webcasts for private companies this year.  But how is it remotely intelligent for Genapsys to hide their light under a bushel basket?

Actually, their website is pretty strange, though it took some poking around before I figured it out.  They are allegedly selling sequencers and the consumables to run them, but you really can't discover that on their website -- no pricing information, no specs and certainly no obvious place to buy things.  Now I'll admit I sometimes overlook things on websites, but I've checked twice -- and besides, shouldn't a commercial operation make finding the way to buy things absolutely impossible to not find?

Genapsys has had an up-and-down level of publicity.  Back in 2014 founder Hessam Esfandyarpour gave a giddy, Steve Jobs-esque presentation at AGBT and the company solicited for early access interest, but then the company went so silent I assumed they had gone out of business.  Then they popped up again with a reagent deal then went quiet again and finally launched at the end of 2019.  Last year they replaced Esfandyarpour as CEO with former Ion Torrent executive Jason Myers.  

But Genapsys has failed so far to deliver a higher density chip, so their device is mired in the lowest of the low end of the market -- iSeq-ish.  It's relatively inexpensive -- unless you compare to MinION.  They've lined up a few partners but never a raving fan academic lab to really drive excitement.  They came our nicely in an ABRF comparison of SNP calling accuracy. 

But as discussed earlier, there's a bunch of other companies rushing into the space.  Oxford Nanopore claims they can fill short-read needs.  BGI may be released from patent hell.  Singular Genomics is planning to launch in the second half.  Element Biosciences hasn't yet revealed their timeline, but are a Silver Sponsor at AGBT so might be planning a significant reveal.  Even if none of the new entrants is precisely competing with Genapsys for high accuracy, low error rate and low capital cost, attention and conversation is going to swirl around all these companies -- and the reality is that BGI has low end instruments and of course ONT is going to fight here.  Illumina hasn't updated iSeq, but they did tout sales of it in their JPM talk.  So Genapsys is in a crowded space needing to differentiate itself and get some attention -- and their strategy is to hide their presentation!

I'm not one to engage in skulduggery -- my most exciting bit of professional intrigue was sneaking into a SIMB meeting opening reception and poster session without credentials -- and I was a speaker! (I thought the registration would be open during the session but it wasn't).  I've even tipped a newsletter writer off how I could evade their paywall, though admittedly only after feeling guilty due to a few uses of it.  And yes, I'll confess to freely making use of another paywall backdoor for years, though that was recently plugged.  But if I got curious enough about Genapsys, maybe I should summon my inner August Dupin or Ellery Queen, because it seems nothing less will enlighten me as to how Genapsys intends to avoid being smothered by everyone else in the short read sequencing space.

Anybody know Miss Marple's contact info?

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