Genome Web reported today that BGI has put Complete Genomics' recent launch of the Revolocity super sequencer "on hold." According to Complete CEO, Cliff Reid, BGI has been undergoing "a strategic reevaluation" since the surprise departure of their founder and chief executive, Jun Wang, back in July.
This must come as a complete shock to Cliff and his team over in Mountain View. In an interview here at Mendelspod just last month, Cliff was bullish about the new super sequencer and had just presented some data on the Revolocity at ASHG in October. Cliff told GenomeWeb that he plans to resign.
Cliff has been an eloquent spokesperson for genomic medicine since co-founding Complete Genomics back in 2006, then the world's first large-scale human genome sequencing company. Rather than sell instruments, Cliff and Complete set themselves apart as a service company. When Complete had to sell out to BGI in 2013, it was already apparent that the product model had won out over the service model, as most major research centers chose to have their own tools to sequence human genomes.
In our recent interview with Cliff, he said that it's not really about product vs. service anymore, but rather about centralized and decentralized. "There is still a nationalistic view of DNA," he said, pointing out that every country is concerned about shipping their genomic data overseas. And that means that "you gotta take the instruments and the data to the customers where the patients live."
I hope Cliff sticks around in the genomics space. He's got some strong ideas about how genomic medicine will play out and has always been excited about the possibilities of the direct-to-consumer model. In a post I wrote back in 2013, 5 Myths of Genomic Medicine, Cliff said:
"If there’s any revolution that will change medicine, it’s not the science of biology as much as the phenomenon of social media. It is changing the way humans interact. It is changing our culture and turning existing hierarchies on their head. Patients are talking with each other. They are talking directly to researchers, and as seen in the previous myth, they are developing a different relationship with their physicians."
Prior to starting Complete, Cliff founded a search engine company (before Google) and a video sharing site (before YouTube), neither of which panned out. He told me once that the joke around his house is "fourth time is the charm."