Illumina continues long-read expansion with Dovetail comarketing agreement


Illumina ($ILMN) has hooked up with another of the companies trying to piggyback on the success of its technologies by fixing their weaknesses. The latest pact sees Illumina agree to comarket Dovetail Genomics’ genome assembly service, an offering that leverages short-read sequencers to deliver long-range information.

Dovetail, the brainchild of University of California, Santa Cruz’s Richard Edward Green, broke cover last year equipped with a software pipeline, an approach dubbed Chicago and aspirations to make it possible to reconstruct complete genome sequences and better distinguish between maternal and paternal DNA.

Instead of going up against the might of Illumina, as long-read players such as Oxford Nanopore and Pacific Biosciences ($PACB) are doing, Dovetail is aiming to build its business upon the ubiquity and shortcomings of the genomics powerhouse’s technologies. Short-read data from Illumina sequencers are paired to long-read information from Dovetail to support insights into structural variation. Dovetail sees cancer research as one of the fields in which such insights could be useful.

The approach is reminiscent of that pursued by 10X Genomics. While 10X and Dovetail are coming at the problem from different angles in terms of technology, they are both aiming to improve the long-read capabilities of existing short-read sequencers. And, in doing so, both have attracted the attention of Illumina, which struck a comarketing pact with 10X in February and followed up with a similar deal with Dovetail this week.

“Our new comarketing relationship with Dovetail Genomics enables us to continue growing the ecosystem around Illumina's powerful sequencing technology for long-read applications," Illumina EVP Christian Henry said in a statement. “Dovetail offers a proven research use only solution for long-range sequencing. Their assembly services produce accurate and highly-contiguous genome assemblies, meeting an essential requirement for many of our customers.”

The deals with 10X and Dovetail are part of a broader initiative by Illumina to nurture an ecosystem of companies that either utilize or enhance its technologies, and pull some organizations closer to the mothership through comarketing agreements as needed. This year alone, Illumina has entered into comarketing agreements with companies including 10X, BioDiscovery, Dovetail, NRGene and Sophia Genetics.