29 August 2011

Helicos Cries Out “I'm Not Dead! I'm Getting Better!”

Helicos, the first company to launch a single molecule DNA sequencer (a class sometimes called “3rd Generation”), has been hanging on to a thread for a while. They've been delisted from NASDAQ and their cash supply is dwindling (down to $1.6M as by June 30th). They are going through another round of cash-saving layoffs that will bring their headcount down to 10. They have apparently stopped selling the HeliScope and their ability to supply reagents and service support to their current customers has been called into question.

When they launched their HeliScope in 2009, they went head to head with the more established players (Illumina, ABI and 454) focusing almost exclusively on being the first 'true single molecule sequencer' for genomic sequencing. It was a tough sell given that they were a bit late to the party and that their reads are shorter and have a higher error rate. They might have been better served to focus on RNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq where the lower quality reads wouldn't have hurt as much and they could have touted their (at the time) industry-leading # of reads per run.

For the past few months their main strategy seemed to center around litigation – they're suing Life Technologies, Illumina and Pacific Biosciences for patent infringement. Just recently, however, they've expanded this strategy by borrowing a page from Complete Genomics – they have launched a sequencing services program to increase their revenues. They've also launched an interesting targeted sequencing solution in which the capture sequences are attached directly to the flow cell (rather than their standard poly dT sequences). They've demonstrated this technology by creating a flow cell for the direct sequencing of the BRCA1 gene.

I fear it may be a bit too little too late, but at least Helicos is still kicking and demonstrating that it doesn't want to go on the cart.

No comments:

Post a Comment