They report reagent costs that are on par with current second generation technology fully loaded costs (which are closer to $50,000, not the $250,000-$500,000 they report in their letter). Yes, you read that right, their reagent costs alone are on par with reagents, instrument depreciation, personnel, and IT infrastructure for second generation platforms. Quake does report in an interview that the amortized equipment cost was $10,000-$20,000. Assuming a straight line depreciation for the Helicos instrument, a $10,000-$20,000 depreciation over four one-week runs yields a $125,000-$250,000 annual depreciation. Their first instrument was sold for $963,000 and they subsequently lowered the price by 25%. So assuming their price now is $725,000 and the residual value of the instrument is $0 (not a bad assumption given the pace of change in this industry), they are estimating a life of their instrument of about three to six years. Again due to the pace of change of this industry, even three years may be generous.
as a PoC genomics Otherizes me.
I'm hardly qualified to defend Helicos, but my understanding is they're still only using part of their flowcell and could still increase strand density substantially. Thus, yes, it's possible the residual value of the instrument will be $0 in five years, but my understanding of the Helicos business model is that the HeliScope platform is supposed to be expandable. That said, obviously this has no bearing on the cost of sequencing a genome today.