When it comes to genetic sequencing and developing new technology and tools to harness our growing ability to alter gene sequences, southern California is known to be a hotbed of innovation. A case in point is the rise of gene sequencing-oriented companies in the greater San Diego, California region.

For example, San Diego-based Illumina has long been a powerful company working with next generation sequencing technology for genetic engineering. But new companies are appearing on the scene now to keep an eye on.

About Illumina

Illumina is known for being one of the major players in next generation sequencing, but other companies are stepping up with new opportunities to do business because Illumina will soon see some of its patents expiring, as noted by Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

During the J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference held in 2021, Illumina had stated it plans to include long-read technology, during an introduction it gave covering its technology platform, dubbed Infinity. Industry observers believe that Illumina is moving in this direction in anticipation of new competition emerging on the scene.

New Competition for Illumina

A relative newcomer to San Diego’s genetics companies is Element Biosciences, which launched five years ago with $400 million in financing. Element Biosciences made a splash on the scene with its powerful gene sequencers, known as the AVITI. Element Biosciences touts the AVITI’s capabilities in read-length flexibility, doing both long and short reads, along with tools for more accurate sequencing data. The company also promotes the cost-effective nature of its AVIITI solution.

Meanwhile, another next generation sequencing business called Singular Genomics has just launched in San Diego in 2021. This organization is currently accepting orders for its G4 desktop platform, with plans to begin shipping products sometime over the next few months, per Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

Singular Genomics, led by CEO Drew Spaventa, explained that the company is pitching its instrument to users who are focused on improving speed with greater flexibility in their NGS setups.

Industry experts note that Singular and Element are aiming for the same types of end-users, in academic laboratories and in private labs. Accordingly, they are offering prices competitive enough that individual research efforts can afford to build them into their business plans. One of the most appealing aspects of arranging to get your own sequencing instruments from one of these San Diego-based NGS startups is that researchers using them will no longer have to take time to send out their samples for sequencing by external, third parties. The new systems handle this for them.

Some characteristics of the new equipment offered by Element are technical innovations or improvements, with Shawn Baker, PhD, a consultant and expert who advises genomics companies on starting up new businesses at SanDiegOmics.com, saying they offer higher quality readability and use better surface chemistry.

While a NextSeq instrument from Illumina costs approximately $335,000, Element’s AVITI sells for about $289,000. However, since the AVITI uses dual flow cells, it’s “like having two independent NextSeq instruments for the price of one,” according to Element CEO Molly He.

How Will Future Competition Affect the World of Next Generation Sequencing?

Paying attention to the business developments of current heavyweights in the next generation sequencing space is essential to anyone who wants to be a scientist, engineer, researcher, or investor, and technology improvements will also be of interest to individuals with illnesses crying out for solutions based on genetic sequencing and editing.

The advances being put forth by companies such as Element and Singular in competition with Illumina illustrate how exciting this industry is becoming.