Can Lowered Sequencing Costs be the Equivalent of Moore’s Law in Biology?

Sep 27, 2019 | Blog


Issue #41. Friday, September 27

Hello Everyone,

For this edition of the Zoic newsletter, we will be covering deals in the vaccine space, new approaches in consumer diagnostics, wireless devices, and other fields.

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Can Lowered Sequencing Costs Be The Equivalant of Moore’s Law in Biology?

We have previously discussed vaccines and how this field is open to disruption. It is traditionally thought that this is not a profitable area, especially for venture capital, but with new technologies there is significant opportunity especially given the potential population impact. A recent deal seems to indicate some pharmaceutical companies also think this; a vaccine developer entered into a partnership with Merck in order to develop new a platform for both vaccines and cancer indications. The same platform can carry over to both broad fields since the same technology can be used to destroy virus-infected cells and cancer “infected” cells.

We frequently cover new diagnostic technologies, particularly at-home devices. A device being developed by a startup is also in this field, but as an application, we have not covered yet. This system analyzes a user’s urine, looking for biomarkers that show early signs of chronic conditions such as kidney failure or infection. Kidney disease is a major issue that can be addressed if seen early; chronic kidney disease and the dialysis that is most commonly needed is one of the most expensive conditions to treat. Addressing this early will save significant healthcare costs as well as greatly improving patient lives.

Another interesting field is “cord-cutting”; not for television but removing cords in medical technology, particularly in imaging and diagnostics. There are many applications now that require a patient to be wired to a stationary device in a hospital or clinic. For example, epilepsy patients need an implant and need to be immobile while they are wired to a data-gathering device. With the common advances in consumer electronics, there are significant advances that can be made in making these devices wireless, such as with recent partnerships. This will not only be more convenient for patients but will also allow more realistic data gathering during normal patient activity.

We continue to see a large number of new technologies and deals in the sequencing space. Sequencing costs are continuing to go down dramatically, serving as the biology world’s equivalent of Moore’s law. As the costs reach a level that they are a commodity, there will be a vast amount of genomic data to mine. The company (or companies) that can dominate the data collection method, as well as the data itself, will also dominate health care in the future.

Finally, we also continue to see a large number of deals in liquid biopsy, including partnerships between industry and smaller companies. Some partnerships, like the example here, involve companies well established in one diagnostic space, such as non-invasive prenatal testing, branching out into the cancer diagnosis space. This can leverage their existing consumer and customer base, especially when the nascent liquid biopsy tests for early cancer detection are clinically validated.
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