January 13, 2012

Who's driving innovation?

I used to think that progress in science drives technical innovation. With sequencing it is the other way around: The sequencing companies provide new technology (a recent example being the Ion Proton sequencer), and the scientists gratefully use it to produce new knowledge, or at least new data.

In other words, the companies that develop sequencing technology are at the top of the innovation pyramid. Illumina, Life Technologies, Pacific Biosciences, Complete Genomics and Oxford Nanopore produce the innovations that keep the sequencing market growing.

At the next level are the organisations that use sequencing technology directly. These come in two flavours. One is academia, dominated by large sequencing centres such as the BGI, the Broad Institute, the Sanger Institute or the Joint Genome Institute. The other is clinical sequencing companies such as Sequenom, Ambry Genetics, LifeCodexx or Good Start Genetics.

At the third level are companies that provide services or products that are accessory to sequencing technologies. Again, there are two types: There are bioinformatics companies such as DNAnexus, Personalis, GenomeQuest or Accelerys, and sample preparation and supplies companies such as Agilent, Fluidigm or Roche Nimblegen.

Whilst this structure with sequencing companies at the top of the pyramid in my opinion nicely characterises the current marketplace, it will be interesting to see how it develops in the future. Are there any trends that indicate that sequencing companies may lose the initiative?

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