I Would Go With PacBio, But Not Because of Human Genomics

I guess. Over at the Motley Fool, Brian Orelli asks, “Which Is a Better Buy: Complete Genomics or Pacific Biosciences?” While I agree that PacBio is probably the better bet (and bet is the operative word), I don’t think the reasoning is right. Orelli:

If you’re interested in trying to catch the boom and get out before the bust, both Complete Genomics and PacBio look like a good choice to benefit from an exponential increase in DNA sequencing.
It’s too early to make a definitive call, but of the two, I like PacBio better because I’m not fond of the low-cost, high-volume business model. Sure, it’s worked for Costco and Wal-Mart, but I like PacBio’s razor and blade model — sell the machine once and then continue to supply reagents year after year — a little better.

To me, the question is far more basic: what do you think the growth area for genomics–and note that I didn’t write human genomics–is.

Because if you really think the future (and by future, I mean the next few years) is all about human genomics, Complete Genomics, whose business model consists of receiving human DNA and sending you data, looks pretty good. There will be a need for that, as even sequencing centers would have a hard time meeting potential demand. But if you think that other organisms might also be heavily sequenced, then the flexibility of PacBio becomes huge (Complete Genomics simply doesn’t do this).
If high throughput sequencing of clinical microorganisms (or other sequencing applications that require rapid turn-around time) booms, then PacBio is the better bet by far. If there’s one thing that the history of sequencing has shown, it’s that the current ‘new thing’ in terms of scientific and medical interest doesn’t pan out. If microbes get huge, well….
PacBio seems to be a good bet hedge.
Of course, maybe I’m just setting you up, and planning to go short. Heh.

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3 Responses to I Would Go With PacBio, But Not Because of Human Genomics

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  3. Russell says:

    The only thing that really matters is how useful the data is, or can be mere to be. The question of “betting” on volume and turn around is putting the cart before the horse. What will happen is this; labs who spend their money on unproven machines will do so on incomplete and probably inaccurate information about the performance parameters, and will have to adapt their research around the strengths of the machine they actually have. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as people go into it with their eyes open. It is very likely that the new machines will be totally useless for what people want them for, and clever folks will have to find ways of putting them to work.
    Everyone else will watch and see what the early adopters can do, and make their choices on that basis.
    So goes the research, so goes corporate revenues. I predict serendipity will rule the day.

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