Complete Genomics is finally back on the road towards fulfilling its promises of $5000 human genome sequences, after delays in obtaining funding for a massive new facility pushed back its plans by six months. The $45 million in funding it announced this week will be sufficient to build the new Silicon Valley facility, which the company claims will have the capacity to sequence a staggering 10,000 genomes over the course of 2010.
Complete Genomics is an unusual creature in the second-generation sequencing menagerie: instead of aiming to generate revenue by selling machines to researchers and biotech, Complete has an entirely service-driven business model. Basically, it aims to create a series of extremely automated sequence factories with a single input (human DNA) and a single output (an accurate and comprehensive list of all of the variants present in that sample’s genome), operating on a massive scale. All of the steps in between will be performed using in-house sequencing technology and analytical software.
It’s an audacious plan – but clearly it’s a plan with sufficient plausibility to convince investors to cough up $45 million in the middle of a major venture capital drought. If Complete can meet their ambitious goals for 2010 they stand to gain pole position in a field where the pay-offs are potentially massive, as the preferred providers of the raw genomic material for the new field of personalised medicine.
So, will it work? I spoke on the phone to Complete Genomics CEO Clifford Reid and company director Alex Barkas about their plans over the next 18 months.
$5000 for accurate, whole genome sequences really changes the ball game. This makes it very easy to envision this process becoming very common. There are a lot of big ifs here that have to be overcome.
My worry with some of this is that we are talking about having great accuracy calling over 3 billion bases. In a commercial setting there are going to be pressures to take some short cuts . These companies will need careful vetting of their procedures and have strong quality control to assure accuracy. It would be a shame if someone makes medical decisions based on inaccurate information.
but if they can do this, we are entering a new era for human genomics.