Pacific Biosciences swims out into IPO waters

California gene sequencing tech company plans for $200 million initial public offering

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MENLO PARK, Calif.—Pacific Biosciences filed a registration statement August 16 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission today for an initial public offering (IPO) of its common stock. The proposed maximum aggregate offering price is $200 million, and the company plans to list its shares on the Nasdaq Global Market under the name PACB.

As Dow Jones Newswires points out, Pacific Biosciences is joining what it calls a "slew" of companies that want to tap the equity market, adding that, "Navigating the IPO process has been rocky lately, with many companies downsizing or delaying plans to go public, but the flow of corporations starting the process has remained steady."

For the six months ended June 30, the company's losses, which had already been $35.1 million a year earlier, had widened to $63 million. The company reported revenue of $1.2 million for the latest period and didn't have any revenue a year earlier.

Pacific Biosciences has said that its Single Molecule Real Time (SMRT) technology provides a window into the study of biological systems study that hasn't been available before, and it plans to use proceeds for general purposes, including research and development, sales and marketing related to its planned commercial launch, and increases in the scale of its manufacturing operations. So, while it seeks IPO money, it is still a development-stage company with a limited operating history that hasn't yet seen any revenue from actual sales or services, which could be an uphill battle in the current market.

The IPO plans follows a few recent announcements from Pacific Biosciences.

In July, the company noted at the Eighteenth International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB 2010) that "as part of its commitment to introducing third generation DNA sequencing technology to the market," it was launching a software developer's network—the PacBio DevNet."

PacBio notes that throughout the development of its SMRT technology platform, it has been working closely with members of the informatics community to develop and define standards for working with single-molecule sequence data. Now, as the company prepares for the commercial launch of the PacBio RS—part of the reason it is pursuing the IPO, of course, it is launching a more formal program to support the needs of the informatics community.

Reportedly, the PacBio DevNet was created to support "the ecosystem of academic informatics developers, life scientists, and independent software vendors interested in creating tools to work with PacBio's third generation sequencing data." Interested parties can sign up for the PacBio DevNet at, a hub for data sets, source code for algorithms, application programming interfaces, conversion tools to industry standard formats, and documentation related to SMRT sequencing.

"Single Molecule Real Time sequencing introduces entirely new dimensions to data, such as a time component, that are unlike anything the bioinformatics community has encountered to this point," says Dr. Eric Schadt, chief scientific officer for Pacific Biosciences. "Therefore, in addition to a strong internal focus on informatics development, we are committed to supporting third-party software development and facilitating the rapid adoption of this new data type into the scientific community where the really exciting 'big science' can begin to happen."

More recently, in early August, the company also noted at one time a pair of news items: that it has expanded its operations into the European Union with the appointment of Terry Pizzie as vice president, Europe, and that it has also expanded into the continent with its first European customer, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The Sanger Institute purchased a PacBio RS 3rd generation sequencing system as part of the company's early access program.

Earlier this year, Pacific Biosciences announced the first 10 customers as part of its North American early access program. These sites, which represent genome centers, cancer research institutions, commercial organizations and universities, have begun receiving their instruments. The August announcement reflects the company's expansion of its early access program to a limited number of sites outside of North America.

PacBio was founded with the goal of developing a single-molecule, real-time approach for nucleic acid sequencing. This concept was initially developed at Cornell University in the Laboratories of Watt Webb and Harold Craighead.

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