March 3, 2017

NGS dotcom bubble?

With the recent news about Life Technology laying off staff, and Illumina being downgraded by stockmarket analysts, could this be another dotcom bubble about to burst? Next-gen sequencing (NGS) is here to stay but perhaps the hype and marketing is beginning to wear off and customers are starting to tire of the endless stream of new technologies and speed increases which are difficult to keep pace with.

Soon there will certainly be a point where NGS technology is fast enough, i.e. any further speed increases will need to be exponential rather than incremental in order to have any significant effect on the way the technology is used. Perhaps we are already at that point? Are sequencing vendors trying too hard to achieve gains which outpace their competitors when many labs would instead prefer to see more basic improvements such as read quality or read length in the equipment that they already have? Of course all vendors continually update their existing equipment, but perhaps the battle to outdo the competition in terms of performance may be showing signs of having a negative effect rather than improving the standard of research across the scientific community.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, work continues on the next-next generation of sequencing technology. Oxford Nanopore's GridIon is yet to launch, whilst PacBio has seen its value fall significantly since launching its latest platform and subsequently taking a big hit in earnings. Each of them brings yet another new technique to master and a new technology to learn the ins and outs of in order to properly take advantage of its features in the sequencing lab (and in the downstream bioinformatics). Do we need yet another brand new NGS technology, or do we really just wish what we already had could be made to work just that bit better instead of having to upgrade to a newer platform?

Topics: Bioinformatics