Element Biosciences, Inc. is rapidly achieving its mission to “democratize” sequencing.
The company announced last week it had received over 160 commercial orders for its AVITI benchtop sequencer, expanded its installed base to 112 instruments and last year generated more than $25 million in revenue.
“We’re all about growth at this point. We had a very successful first full year of commercialization,” said Element Biosciences CEO Molly He, adding that the company’s growth rate is that fastest among its historical peers of NGS (next generation sequencer) producers.
“And we’d like to continue that trajectory,” she added.
Continuing its growth trajectory into 2024, the company announced several new products and innovations for its AVITI benchtop system at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
“Some of the products make traditional NGS better, faster, more affordable,” He said, and pointed to Element’s new Cloudbreak UltraQ kit — “the first Q50 kit – meaning 1 error in 100,000 basis. That’s extremely accurate. It is 100 times better than today’s industry standard.”
Element also announced workflow improvements in its Cloudbreak Freestyle and Trinity products that simplify steps to run AVITI.
With the Cloudbreak Freestyle sequencing kit, Element eliminated the need for library conversion steps on the bench prior to sequencing on AVITI, allowing AVITI to fit seamlessly into existing workflows.
Trinity simplifies targeted sequencing, including exome, to an on-flowcell workflow.
“Essentially we’re looking at collapsing the end-to-end workflow completely onto AVITI,” He said, adding that the product eliminates the “tedious workflow” of doing library prep and then having to enrich the target of interest sequencing. “With our new product, people can just do regular library prep and put it on the sequencer right away – all the target enrichment will happen on the sequencer. That drastically reduces the time and cost of the workflow. This is just a first step of us trying to integrate end-to-end workflow onto the sequencer.”
Element’s most impressive new product is AVITI24, which He described as “fully differentiated from other sequencing offerings” because it expands the benchtop’s abilities beyond sequencing DNA or RNA molecules.
“This is about telling the story of the biology – not just from the genomics side, but also from other molecules like protein side,” she said.
With AVITI24, resercers will be able to conduct simultaneous measurement of multiple analytes, including DNA, RNA, proteins, phosphorylated proteins, and cell morphology.
“That will actually allow researchers to really connect phenotype with genotype from the same cells – that’s something we’re really excited about,” He said. “There’s no upfront conversion required. We can detect protein, we can detect DNA, can detect RNA directly at the same time from the same cell, same samples in one instrument.”
Sanger Institute Head of Cellular Genetics Sarah Teichmann, Ph.D. described Element’s new innovations for AVITI as “thrilling.”
“The new capabilities in multi-omics can help cell biologists by integrating molecular analysis into the samples that we study, thus re-defining human cell biology at unprecedented depth and resolution,” she said.
Element also announced a new option on AVITI’s user interface called Expert Mode HD that generates 20-70% more data for free, driving the cost of counting applications below $1 per million reads.
Lowering cost is baked into Element’s mission since the company launched AVITI in March 2022 with the mission to democratize sequencing.
“Our story really resonated with our customers. In the past, the cost of sequencing has gone down, but it has gone down because you have to sequence many, many samples at the same time. My analogy is that’s a wholesale approach,” He said. “But there are some customers who do not have so many samples to run or they don’t really have very well-funded sources to buy expensive instruments and those folks are being left out, their needs were being unmet.”
Element’s approach was to offer sequencing in an affordable way that also offers a “high level of flexibility, so you don’t need to buy a whole bunch to get to that pricing point and at the same time you get the best data quality, and the results show through,” she added.
Waiting to IPO
Element’s results from its first year of commercialization point to a future where the company may head to the public markets to scale up its mission to lower sequencing costs.
“Going public is an option, but we want to be able to do two things before we go IPO,” He said, adding that the first thing Element wants to do is “reach commercial maturity” and be able to forecast its business more accurately.
“We’ve seen many other private companies IPO without that maturity and their stock getting crushed and we don’t want to repeat that kind of mistake,” she said.
The other thing is the “market needs to be better,” she added.
CEO & CO-FOUNDER: Dr. Molly He, PhD
HEADQUARTERS: Sorrento Valley
REVENUE: $25 million (2023)
NOTABLE: Element CEO and Co-founder Dr. Molly He, PhD was named by Forbes in 2023 as one of the 50 over 50 Women Who are Changing the World.