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Los Angeles, CA March 2, 2020 – This morning, Quantum Si introduced a potentially highly disruptive instrument, an equivalent to NGS for high-throughput protein sequencing. The company is part of the 4Catalyzer incubator founded by Jonathan Rothberg, who also founded 454 Life Sciences (the first NGS company) back in 2000.
As detailed in their press release, Quantum Si offers an end-to-end solution that includes 1) a sample prep instrument, Carbon, which can be used for NGS sample preparation, 2) a desktop-size protein sequencer, Platinum, and 3) Cloud for data management and analysis. Quantum Si emphasizes a handful of example applications, most notably for pathogen detection, and different settings, from basic research to the clinic. Given the ability of this platform to detect post translational modifications, we do expect that the first set of applications may be for basic protein research, and for oncology applications, given the large appetite from immuno-oncology biopharma companies to adopt novel technologies that may enable or accelerate drug development in a $100B+ oncology drug market.
In our estimates, the NGS manufacturer market was $4.4B in 2019, with many highly underpenetrated applications (e.g., early cancer detection). The specification (most notably accuracy and throughout) and price of Quantum Si’s first sequencer, the Platinum, haven’t been released yet. However, it is easy to imagine that a handful of high throughput protein sequencing companies could generate revenues in the billions within a decade. Other companies such Erisyon and Encodia are also working on solutions to enable protein sequencing.
“If you think about what NGS did for most the genomics space, it unlocked new areas of research that were simply not addressable in the past, for example, large scale high definition population whole genome sequencing”, said Matt Dyer, Quantum Si’s Chief Product Officer, in a brief call with us. “By transitioning proteomics to a massively-parallel and digital platform, we will be able to ask and answer questions that will change how we develop drugs, treat patients, and combat outbreaks”. He added: “Not all questions require a sequencing readout. The beauty of our massively-parallel single-photon counting chip is the broad application space it enables, giving us tremendous flexibility to develop new applications. For example, the same chip that sequences proteins can also be used as an ultra-sensitive universal analyte detector with sub-picomolar sensitivity.”
From a research tools perspective, 2010-2019 was undoubtedly the genomics decade. While some technological progress have been on the proteomics side (e.g., SomaLogic’s SomaScan, Quanterix’s Simoa, ThermoFisher’s Orbitrap), genomics has scaled at a geometric rate faster than Moore’s law. While sequencing the first genome cost billions, a full genome can now “easily” be done under $1,000 (for large institutions at scale), and for $100 within a couple of years. It will be interesting to see if the Platinum platform follows the same technological and application path that NGS platforms did, starting with pure sequencing, followed by epigenetics, then single cell analysis, and most recently whole transcriptome spatial profiling. Regardless, Quantum Si’s technology may have the pendulum swing back to protein analysis, as ultimately, proteins, not genes dictate health and disease phenotypes. So perhaps Next Generation Protein Sequencing “NGPS” can put proteins back on the map (pun intended)!
Disclaimer: Companies listed above may be DeciBio clients and/or customers