The END of 454 Saga

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Following Roche’s disclosure last week that it will shut down 454 Life Sciences and stop supporting 454 sequencing instruments by 2016, customers are making plans to move their sequencing over to other platforms, if they have not done so already.

While Illumina, Life Tech’s Ion Torrent, and Pacific Biosciences are eager to step in to fill the void, some customers say aspects of 454’s technology cannot be replaced by other platforms at this point. Also, those customers who have started to use 454 for routine clinical applications need to revalidate their assays on a new platform.

Roche said last week that it will close down 454, which is based in Branford, Conn., and lay off about 100 employees over the next three years (GWDN 10/15/2013). By mid-2016, it will stop supporting the 454 sequencing platforms, the GS FLX+ and the GS Junior.

Roche’s decision to pull the plug on 454 came to light less than a month after the company announced a deal with Pacific Biosciences, worth up to $75 million, to develop a sequencing system and assays for clinical diagnostics using PacBio’s single-molecule real-time sequencing technology (IS 10/1/2013).

Earlier this year, Roche had already eliminated 60 positions at 454 as part of a reorganization that combined the 454 business in Branford and the NimbleGen business in Madison, Wis., into a new sequencing unit (IS 4/23/2013). That move was part of a larger restructuring that dissolved Roche Applied Science, the life science unit of Roche Diagnostics, and integrated its products into other units. At the same time, Roche cut its sequencing technology development collaborations with DNA Electronics and with IBM.
Dan Zabrowski, head of Roche’s sequencing unit, told In Sequence last week that all 454 products, such as instruments, parts, reagents, consumables, and services for those products, will continue to be available to customers until mid-2016. These include the GS FLX and GS Junior Titanium reagent series, the XLR70 and the XL+ sequencing kits, and subkits for the GS FLX and FLX+ instruments. Also included will be existing and soon-to-be-launched GS Junior/+ sequencing kits and subkits.

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