Pacific Biosciences raises $68M for third-gen sequencing development

The announcement of the Helicos genome sequence (which I've already discussed in detail) engendered a huge amount of media interest, sometimes for the wrong reasons

Having the media attention directed elsewhere in the third-generation sequencing space was clearly an unwelcome experience for Helicos competitors Pacific Biosciences, who have responded with a press release announcing the successful raising of $68M to finance further development of their single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing platform.
To be fair, raising that sort of capital in the current economic climate is no mean feat, although this is perhaps as much a tribute to PacBio's PR acumen as to their promising technology and financial potential. 
The challenges lying ahead for this company in penetrating a sequencing market already thoroughly dominated by Illumina (who has already signed a distribution contract with a competing third-generation platform, Oxford Nanopore) should not be understated. PacBio's technology will have to represent a spectacular advance over the current state of the art (unlike, say, Helicos' offering) to have a chance, at least over the medium term. 
Still, the promise of super-long single-molecule reads from PacBio is enticing, and I look forward to seeing the results that emerge from their platform once it finally reaches the market. The press release suggests that the commercial launch will come in late 2010, so we still have a while to wait.
Meanwhile, on a tangent: I note with interest that one of the investors is the Wellcome Trust, a major UK-based charitable foundation that has invested heavily in genomic research. I hope the Trust realises that their investment in PacBio could earn them another semi-coherent rant from Applied Biosystems/Life Technologies' Kevin McKernan unless the Trust swiftly make a precisely equal contribution to Life Technologies. In the interests of fairness and competition, of course.
If that last paragraph made no sense to you, see David Dooling and Nick Loman for context.


More like this

Pushkarev, D., Neff, N., & Quake, S. (2009). Single-molecule sequencing of an individual human genome Nature Biotechnology DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1561 Yes, it's yet another "complete" individual genome sequence, following on the heels of Craig Venter, James Watson, an anonymous African male (twice,…
James Clarke, Hai-Chen Wu, Lakmal Jayasinghe, Alpesh Patel, Stuart Reid, Hagan Bayley (2009). Continuous base identification for single-molecule nanopore DNA sequencing Nature Nanotechnology DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.12The clever boys and girls at Oxford Nanopore Technologies - one of the most…
Kevin Davies from Bio-IT World has two interviews up today relevant to new DNA sequencing technologies. Firstly, there's an excellent interview with Clive Brown, vice president of development and informatics for Oxford Nanopore Technologies - one of the most promising contenders in the rapidly…
Complete Genomics is finally back on the road towards fulfilling its promises of $5000 human genome sequences, after delays in obtaining funding for a massive new facility pushed back its plans by six months. The $45 million in funding it announced this week will be sufficient to build the new…

I found it interesting that another of the named investors was Monsanto. Unless they're getting into that subset of GMOs known as GMHs, it appears they're interested in PacBio for its non-human applications. Makes me wonder about the viability of the Complete Genomics model which, last I heard, involved human genomes only.

Oxford Nanopore and Pacific Biosciences systems may be 2-3 years in the future. The price of a Helicos machine should go down in the near turn. It can easily take a significant market share away from other companies like Illumina.