Orlando, FL June 10, 2022 – After 2.5 long years, it felt good to be back and see familiar friendly faces at AGBT 2022. More than ever, and likely driven by the pandemic fatigue, this close-knit community came back together to celebrate the impact that technology can have on the adoption of precision medicine. In sharp contrast to the humbling backdrop of the public and private life sciences markets, the excitement was palpable. And for good reasons! The level of new announcements and innovation was one of the most impressive in recent memory and appeared non-linear compared to previous years.
As usual, we conducted a survey on the last evening asking 50 attendees "what they would remember from AGBT 2022?" We assigned 3 points to their first answer, 2 points to the second, and 1 point to the last answer. A handful of people gave 2 or 5 answers (typically as a small group). The results are below, along with some commentary and attendee quotes italicized.
#1 – An avalanche of spatial profiling platforms become available (First place, 82 points, 36 mentions):
For the third AGBT in a row, spatial profiling was the talk of the town. "It's going to be a gold rush", and we concur with attendees that no clear winners currently exist. Coming from the protein side (and adding RNA), Akoya has a clear value proposition in translational clinical settings. 10x Genomics and nanoString have the execution expertise to execute not only on their current and announced (whole transcriptome "cellular" and targeted subcellular) product portfolio but also a richer product roadmap. "You have to love that the nanoString CEO came dancing through a smoke tunnel!" Finally, Vizgen has a platform currently on the market that have received very positive feedback from customers we interviewed. Resolve Bio (the gold sponsor), Rebus, Veranome, Spatial Genomics, Canopy (Bruker) all made a compelling argument about their right to play.
#2 – New sequencers (60 points, 24 mentions):
Almost just as excitingly, three new sequencers were on display at the conference, Ultima, Element Bio, and Singular Genomics. Ultima Genomics arguably made the biggest splash, with the caveat that the impression among attendees was mixed. Interestingly, many attendees appreciated that one key impact of these instrument launches would be on the expected competitive response from Illumina, particularly on the pricing side. "Maybe the NGS monopoly is about to end."
On the flip side, we note that three current market leaders were surprisingly quiet (Illumina) or absent (ThermoFisher and MGI) at the conference.
#3 – Ultima promises the $100 genome, with a roadmap to $10 (21 points, 14 mentions – see footnote):
My guess is that in 5 years when looking back at AGBT 2022, people will remember it as the year Ultima revealed their box. The Ultima booth was consistently among the most packed. We eagerly await to see the reception at early customer sites, given the excitement around the pricepoint per Gb (~$1), mitigated by the potential homopolymer issues. A couple of insiders jokingly reminded us of the "Don't get emultional" discussion back in the early Illumina vs. Ion Torrent days. "I didn't think we'd be back talking about homopolymers issues!"
Of note, back in 2020, MGI announced a new platform, the DNBSEQ-Tx sequencer ("T ten"), that enables the $100 genome, which may explain the skepticism from some.
#4 – Spatial omics goes 3D and subcellular (17 points, 8 mentions):
In the same vein as #1, many attendees were impressed with the high level of resolution attainable by the spatial profiling platforms.
#5 – Single-cell analysis is standard, and now FFPE enabled (13 points, 8 mentions):
One announcement that received surprisingly little attention (in our view) is the launch of a single-cell protocol on FFPE samples (10x Genomics). This product may unlock the market significantly, as outlined by 16% of survey respondents. "We've been expecting it for a couple of years, which may explain why people didn't react to it with more enthusiasm. And there is just a lot going on this year!"
#6 – Long reads illuminate dark parts of the genome (11 points, 7 mentions):
While the NGS newcomers listed above all use short read technologies, long read technologies were on clear display, most notably Oxford Nanopore, who, while not a sponsor was present from the first talk (Euan Ashley) to the last (Ghamdan Al-Eryani), and every session in-between. "Euan's talk was quite inspirational. I didn't expect that Oxford Nanopore would be used in clinical settings with such large impact so soon"
#7 – Population Sequencing is conducted routinely at scale (10 points, 5 mentions):
The exome makes up only ~1.5% of the genome. A series of population sequencing and comparative genomics were on display at the conference. One talk unveiled that ~20% of the genome is highly conserved across species and likely plays a significant role*; the other 80% obviously likely plays a role as well, but that may be less critical (another example of the Pareto principle?).
* Feel free to confirm this figure that we overheard from an attendee
#8 – Multiomics gains traction (10 points, 5 mentions):
Multiomics has been on scientists' minds for over a decade but has largely failed to gain traction due to a lack of clear enabling applications. This year, multiple talks highlighted the importance of analyzing both proteins and nucleic acid concurrently, most notably in the context of spatial profiling.
#9 – Innovation galvanizes customers (9 points, 5 mentions):
While we asked attendees to focus on the technologies, applications/talks and announcements, many insisted that the rapid pace of innovation was the key message at this year's AGBT. We agree.
#10 – Automation reaches smaller labs (8 points, 5 mentions):
Until recently, automation was largely reserved for "industrial labs" conducting NGS at scale. Attendees were excited about automation solutions increasingly available for labs running smaller-scale operations. The names that were top of mind were Agilent, Miroculus, and Volta labs. "I'm surprised that after almost 2 decades, we still don't have full end-to-end automation."
Finally, attendees also highlighted:
- Akoya's exciting focus on insights with narrower plex on their spatial solutions (7 points, 4 mentions)
- The continued push for genomics solutions in clinical settings (7 points, 4 mentions)
- The availability of solutions (but continued need) for bioinformatics solutions to analyze terabytes of data (5 points, 3 mentions)
- Element's apparently simple but effective solution (5 points, 3 mentions)
- Singular Genomics G4's flexibility as an interesting differentiator for mid-throughput labs (4 points, 2 mentions)
- DNA Script's potential disruption with their Syntax instrument (3 points, 2 mentions)
- Miroculus' interesting sample prep solution (2 points, 2 mentions)
- Absence of talks on methylation analysis (1 point, 1 mention)
This article was written in a rush, so please excuse any typos! #NGSisUnstoppable
Survey method: We asked interviewees what they would remember about AGBT 2022, focusing on technology, announcements, and trends. We attributed 3 points for the respondent's first answer, 2 points for the second answer, and 1 point for additional answers. On average, people provided ~3 answers (from 2-5, especially when questions were asked to a small group vs. an individual).
It is worth "unpacking" the context of the 21 points gained by Ultima in their 14 mentions:
- 10 attendees replied with a relatively positive or neutral impression (assigned 1-3 points based on the order of mention, as for the rest of the survey)2 attendees were very skeptical – we assigned 0 points in this case
- 2 were very negative (-1 point), pointing us to "an infamous tweet" (that we'll keep out of this post in the spirit of celebration of innovation!).
Author: Stephane Budel, Partner at DeciBio Consulting, LLC
Connect with Stephane Budel on Linkedin
Disclaimer: Companies listed above may be DeciBio clients and/or customers