Thermo Fisher ($TMO) has stepped up its attempts to capture the targeted sequencing market with the introduction of the Ion S5 system. The next-generation sequencing (NGS) system is pitched squarely at clinical trials and other fields in which a quick, affordable snapshot of a panel of genes is needed.
In a clinical trial, the goal of genome sequencing is to ascertain whether a patient is likely to respond to a drug. As such, the ability for a site with minimal lab skills to quickly generate relevant data from a small sample is of utmost importance when selecting a NGS system. Ion S5 is designed to thrive in such an environment. When paired with Thermo Fisher's Ion Chef sample preparation robot, the Ion S5 needs 45 minutes of hands-on time and two pipetting steps to go from a raw sample to data. The sequencing itself takes 2.5 hours.
Thermo Fisher thinks this mix will prove attractive to the burgeoning targeted oncology clinical trials sector. "The new capabilities of the Ion S5 Systems will help move this important work forward, providing even greater flexibility to support the development of new oncology research panels and more efficient workflows with large targeted panels," Ion Torrent General Manager Mark Gardner wrote in an open letter to discuss Ion S5. If Gardner is right, Thermo Fisher could take a dominant position in a growing niche of sequencing market.
While Illumina ($ILMN) has laid claim to large swaths of the sequencing sector, Thermo Fisher has reason to believe it can clean up in any niches in which a targeted approach is effective. The belief is underpinned by the track record of the older products in the Ion Torrent range, which have proven popular among the sponsors of oncology clinical trials. Notably, the National Cancer Institute picked Ion Torrent for its umbrella trial of 20 different cancer drugs. Ion Torrent is being used to run a test on 143 genes, the results of which will shape treatment decisions in the trial.
Ion S5 and its XL variant, which ramps up the onboard computing power, are designed to build upon these early successes in cancer clinical trials and other niches with similar sequencing needs.