Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) of California said today it has sold 10 Sequel® System sequencers for an undisclosed price to Annoroad Gene Technology, a provider of genomics services that has disclosed its intent to build a “world’s leading genome center.”
PacBio said the transaction will significantly expand the Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT®) sequencing capacity of Annoroad, a Beijing-based company specializing in applying next-generation genomics in human health and life science research.
PacBio’s announcement confirms a December 7, 2017, Annoroad announcement that first disclosed the company’s purchase of the Sequel sequencers—part of its plans “to consolidate the construction of the world’s leading genome center,” including creating a multitechnology gene sequencing platform and a data center.
The Sequel systems are expected to be installed at Annoroad facility “within the next several months” and are intended to enhance Annoroad’s large-scale genomic service capabilities across fields that include agriculture, basic research, medicine, and health, PacBio said today.
“SMRT Sequencing has demonstrated great value in many applications. The collaboration between Annoroad and PacBio will further enhance Annoroad’s strategic maneuver and greatly augment our competitiveness,” Annoroad president Dawei Li said in a statement.
PacBio chairman and CEO Michael Hunkapiller, Ph.D., expressed his company’s confidence that the sequencers would play an important role in Annoroad’s ATCG (Annoroad Typical Chinese Genomes) Database, “and Annoroad’s ambition to become a bigger player on the world stage.”
Launched last year at the 2017 Intel BioIT Forum, ATCG contains millions of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) obtained from Chinese participants, with the goal of facilitating genome-wide association study (GWAS)-based research in the diseases of Chinese.
Alibaba, Illumina Partnerships
Annoroad has published the ATCG database on its genomics big data cloud platform SolarGenomics.com, developed in partnership with Alibaba Cloud, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group. As of its June 2017 release at the Intel BioIT Forum, SolarGenomics.com stored and analyzed more than 15 TB data every day.
“By adopting our Sequel platform, Annoroad shows confidence in integrating SMRT Sequencing into its wide array of service offerings in which long reads based on SMRT technology have become instrumental,” Dr. Hunkapiller stated. “We are particularly pleased that Annoroad chose this significant investment in our SMRT Sequencing technology, even after careful evaluation of alternatives.”
Annoroad is a provider of sequencing and bioinformatics solutions. Its version of Illumina’s NextSeq sequencer, the NextSeq 550AR, and a noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) reagent kit were approved last year by the China Food and Drug Administration. NextSeq 550AR was developed through a collaboration by Illumina and Annoroad launched in 2015.
“We, by providing collaborative services with a variety of sequencing platforms, are dedicated to serving our partners and providing core tools for the research and development and the transformation of achievements obtained in many fields of life sciences,” Annoroad stated in December.
In addition to its AnnoGene business, which according to the company is a top-three sequencing service provider in China, Annoroad also operates a medical genomics center and offers numerous clinical services. Those services include NIPT testing as well as multigene testing for hematonosis, circulating tumor DNA testing, and breast/ovarian cancer gene testing.
$111.5M Toward “Supporting Expansion”
In November, Annoroad completed a RMB700 million (nearly $111.5 million) Series C financing co-led by GTJA Investment Group and Ping An Ventures, with participation by SBCVC and SAIF Partners China. At the time, Annoroad said the funding would be used “in supporting expansion of business scale, constructing talents system, and improving technical research and development, as well as investing in new genomics technology and upstream and downstream enterprises of industrial chain.”
Confirmation of the Sequel System sequencer sale to Annoroad comes two months after PacBio sold an additional 10 Sequel sequencers to BGI Genomics for an undisclosed price.
China is a market of growing significance for PacBio. Last year, sales in China represented more than 30% of the company’s total 2017 revenue of $93.5 million, up from less than 10% of the company’s 2016 revenue of $90.7 million, according to a PacBio presentation at the J.P. Morgan 36th Annual Healthcare Conference, held January 8–11 in San Francisco.
PacBio launched Sequel System in September 2015. The system uses a redesigned version of the company’s SMRT Cells that contain 1 million zero-mode waveguides (ZMWs) at launch, compared to 150,000 ZMWs in the PacBio RS II. The redesigned SMRT cells offer increased run-time flexibility, which stretches from 30 minutes to 10 hours for Sequel, compared with 30 minutes to 6 hours for RS II.
Sequel is also designed to deliver about seven times as many reads per SMRT Cell as the PacBio RS II—which according to PacBio should enable customers to reduce their costs and shorten their timeframes for sequencing projects, with approximately half the up-front capital investment compared to previous technology.