All Against All Fight Breaks Out among the Sequencing Businesses

All Against All Fight Breaks Out among the Sequencing Businesses

A couple of warnings before we begin - (i) this article is for entertainment purpose only and no part of it should be considered an investment advice, (ii) we have no financial position in the mentioned companies.

A few years back, analyzing sequencing business used to be boring. There was one giant business (Illumina) expected to take over the world and one crazy blog talking about the importance of long noisy reads (here and here). BGI barely completed the acquisition of money-losing Complete Genomics, but nobody expected much from it.

A number of changes took place since then. BGI used the technology from Complete Genomics to make their own “nation-scale” short-read assembler. Pacbio got investment from Roche to build a high-throughput long read sequencer. Last, but not the least, a famous Britist investor raised a huge pot of money to invest in early-stage startups and invested heavily to bring nanopore technology to market.

Fast forward to 2019, and sequencing industry has become full of strange twists. Roche broke up with Pacbio in 2016, but Illumina decided to acquire the company in late 2018. “Famous British investor” lost his shirt in an early precursor to the end of the unicorn era. We always suspected that he was overpaying for slick technology. In the meanwhile, British regulators blocked the merger of Illumina and Pacbio.

Now that we are in the last quarter of 2019, the future of sequencing businesses look muddier than ever. If there is one sentence to summarize the current status, it is that everyone is fighting against everyone. Illumina is suing BGI for patent infringements and BGI is countersuing. Pacbio is suing Oxford Nanopore again. Finally, a Taiwanese company (??) is suing Pacbio for patent infringment.

What else is going on? Illumina-Pacbio merger is still on hold, but Pacbio is in no danger of going away as long as Illumina pays them $6 million/month. Illumina meanwhile had a small layoff. We are not sure about the IPO of Oxford Nanopore announced in April 2019, because it depends on how long the unicorn businesses hold their unicorn-level valuations.

I apologize for not being able to provide any more clarity. If the future of sequencing businesses appear too unpredictable, try to analyze Brexit.

Our regular series on RNAseq analysis will commence tomorrow.

Written by M. //