Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So you need some DNA sequencing? (pt 2.)

Following up Sunday's post based on the most-excellent Next Generation Genomics: World Map of High-throughput Sequencerslet's try the same experiment on an international basis.

(But first, a caveat: after spending more time with the map, it is pretty clear that the census is really of non-profit academic institutions & service providers. There's really no incentive for a for-profit R&D to report their sequencing capacity.That said, shouldn't commercial DNA sequencing activity track academic efforts, or are some countries biased towards (or against) for-profit R&D?)

DNA sequencers by country:

USA: 827
China: 216
UK: 140
Germany: 112
Canada: 73
Spain: 56
France: 36 (and very well dispersed geographically)
Japan: 35 (there's much consternation that Japan is falling behind in sequencing.)

Italy: 31
South Korea: 29
Taiwan: 28
Switzerland: 27
Sweden: 25 (rest of Scandinavia (DEN, SWE, FIN, NOR: 30))
India: 23
Singapore: 16
all of South America: 18
all of Africa: 12 

Undeniably in LAST place: Indonesia. Human population: 237M (4th most populous country) DNA sequencer population: 0


-Even I'm surprised at how dominant the USA is in sequencing. A quick glance suggests that half of all sequencers are located in the USA. As a policy point, this is worth exploring in another post of its' own (US healthcare model vs. socialized medicine, anyone?), but for now, let's just debate the drug discovery implications. Is there any reason to believe that at least half of the RX & DX innovations won't come from the USA? And if so, is there any reason to believe that countries with socialized health systems aren't free riding on innovation funded by the US system? (Oops. Sorry. That last question just slipped out.)

-As nice as it is to have a large lead in hardware, keep in mind this also means that the USA will led the world in stranded assets and hardware depreciation. Just to illustrate, if the average American sequencer represents a $300k investment, there's a quarter billion dollars of value depreciating quickly.

-wouldn't it be great if LIFE or ILMN donated a few sequencers - even used/last generation - and a supply of reagents to a few universities in Africa? Maybe LIFE could use the US tax code to sell more Ion Torrent machines to existing sequencing centers by facilitating tax write-offs of SOLID equipment donated to universities in Africa or South America? (Company X donates $150k in SOLID equipment to the University of Witwatersrand (Nobel Laureate Sydney Brenner's alma mater). Company X then uses their $50,000 in tax savings to buy a new PGM.) (Does such a program already exist?)

-I'm kind of surprised at the modest presence of the Gulf States. 4 sequencers in Qatar, zero in Bahrain/Dubai/the Emirates.

-I stated that the map listed BGI as having only 15 sequencers in my Sunday post. Turns out that the bulk of BGI's sequencers (166) are in Shenzhen. Apparently even the Beijingers outsource to lower-cost parts of China.

Next up: a look at what this all means.

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