Life Tech steers ahead of rivals in race for faster DNA device

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 10, 2012 12:24 PM
Life Tech steers ahead of rivals in race for faster DNA device

By Esha Dey and Balaji Sridharan

(Reuters) - Life Technologies said it started taking orders for its "$1000 genome" device, placing the maker of life sciences tools in pole position in an industry-wide race to build the cheapest and fastest platform for gene sequencing.

The news drove Life's stock up as much as 11 percent, while shares of rivals Illumina Inc, and Complete Genomics slipped on Tuesday on the Nasdaq.

Industry analysts said the device will put "significant" pressure on Illumina and they are waiting to see how the platform performs.

"(Life's device) is a game-changer and positions Life to capture share from Illumina," Maxim Group analyst Bryan Brokmeier said.

Life and Illumina are the two biggest public players of the sector -- with Illumina commanding nearly 40 percent of the market share.

"The (device) is designed to sequence the entire human genome in a day for $1,000, compared with prior durations of weeks and costs of $5000-$10,000," Brokmeier said.

The "$1000 genome" has long been the industry buzzword with companies racing to get their own device that would drastically reduce the cost and time of gene sequencing, paving the way for greater commercial adoption.

Life's device will be sold for $99,000-$149,000, making it more affordable for large medical practices or clinics. Existing sequencers cost up to $750,000. [ID:nL1E8C93WE]

Smaller firms such as Complete Genomics and Pacific Biosciences of California, known for their aggressive pricing, led the drive to lower costs but industry analysts have been skeptical of the accuracy of their tests.

"With limited technology details at this point, a number of technological questions remain unanswered," Macquarie Capital analyst Jon Groberg said.

Gene-sequencing firms cater to a broad array of clients, ranging from research centers, academic institutions to government laboratories.

The $1.5 billion market for gene-sequencers, which is expected to be worth $3.6 billion by 2015, has recently been plagued by threats of a federal budget squeeze that could directly hurt its main academic and research customers.

(Reporting by Esha Dey and Balaji Sridharan in Bangalore; Editing by Viraj Nair)