September 9, 2013

Has the cost of sequencing stabilised?

Almost two years ago, I asked how DNA sequencing costs would develop in the future. Extrapolating from the data that was available at the time, my prediction was that by now, the cost of sequencing a human genome would be below $100.

As it turns out, the future is not an extrapolation of the past. Since early 2012, the cost of sequencing has remained stable. This is more remarkable than it seems at first, because before 2012, the cost of sequencing had declined significantly in every year since 2001. But since the beginning of 2012, it hasn't budged and still remains at $6,000 per genome.


What went wrong? The biggest thing that happened was nothing. There is just not enough innovation in the sequencing market. Even if the two companies that dominate the market, Illumina and Life Technologies, came up with a vastly cheaper technology, it would probably not make commercial sense for them to make it available right now.

Eventually, there'll be some new technology that will trigger a new round of innovation, but right now it is not clear from where this will come. Nanopore sequencing still seems like a possible candidate, but that has been the case for a long time.

4 comments:

  1. Indeed. We'd like to learn more about Genapsys and Genia 's timelines.

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  2. Art, I think if Life were doing a better job at getting the PII and PIII chips out, there would be at lot more pressure on Illumina to reduce prices. As it is, they've learned their lesson and are now launching improvements (at least for the HiSeq) at a much slower pace, and raising prices each time they do it. The cost/Gb still drops, but just much, much more slowly.

    But you can’t really blame Illumina. In the past their customers were demanding (and paying) for instruments which produced more data per run in an effort to drive down the cost/Gb as low as possible. The result was very expensive machines which produced a ton of data, but took two weeks or so per run. But the market has since switched. Customers are now demanding cheaper instruments, faster runs and lower costs per run (but not so much lower costs/Gb). (I went through this in a bit more detail on my blog: http://biotechmarketer.blogspot.com/2013/05/neil-hall-is-responsible-for-rising-ngs.html)

    As for Genia, they’ve pushed out their original schedule (and changed their chemistry). They latest I’ve heard was starting field testing in late 2013 and commercial launch in 2014. I heard this past spring (but can’t confirm) that Genapsys said they would at least be in beta this year; I haven’t heard anything about them since.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Shawn, thanks for your comment and for the link to your blog, which I've added to my bookmarks straight away.

      Its hard to see how the lack of information forthcoming from Oxford Nanopore, Genia, Genapsys and the like can be a sign that things are progressing well.

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  3. Expect a large jump in data volumes when Illumina release patterned flowcells; unless there is just as little competition from Life et al. In which case expect Illumina to imitate Apple and make incremental increases, accompanied by lots of marketing noise!

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