What: Shares of Pacific Biosciences of California (NASDAQ:PACB), a leader in the field of next-generation gene sequencing technology, climbed by as much as 35% today on unusually high volume. The catalyst behind the stock's sudden surge was the announcement that Pacific is launching its new nucleic acid sequencing platform called "The Sequel(TM) System". According to the press release, The Sequel System offers a reduced footprint at markedly lower sequencing project costs compared to the company's former top of the line sequencer, the PacBio RS II System.
So what: Pacific has been struggling to become a cash flow positive operation because sales of the PacBio RS II System have lagged. The problem is that the PacBio RS II appears to be too costly to use on the huge scale required by Big Pharma to hopefully usher in the era of personalized medicine, mainly by improving in vitro diagnostics. The Sequel System, by contrast, was specifically designed to be used as part of Roche's efforts in the area of human in vitro diagnostics by reducing sequencing costs and the size of the sequencer, meaning that this machine could be a major breakthrough in terms of producing medicines that are tailor made for the individual.
Now what: Pacific will receive another $20 million milestone payment in the fourth quarter of 2015 from Roche for completing this project. Perhaps more importantly, though, Pacific is hoping to start shipping the machine, at least on a limited basis, before year's end. As such, we could see Pacific finally begin to turn the corner in terms of the direction of its cash flow within the next 12 to 24 months, depending on how quickly The Sequel System is adopted. Given that this machine is far smaller and is less costly to operate than the PacBio RS II, I think this stock is worth a deeper dive by patient investors looking to get in on the ground floor of a powerful new technology.