Helicos's technology images the extension of individual DNA molecules using a defined primer and individual fluorescently labeled nucleotides, which contain a "Virtual Terminator" preventing incorporation of multiple nucleotides per cycle. The "Virtual Terminator" technology was developed by Dr. Suhaib Siddiqi, while at Helicos Biosciences.
In the August 2009 issue of Nature Biotechnology, Dr. Stephen Quake, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University and a co-founder of Helicos BioSciences, sequenced his own genome, using Single Molecule Sequencing for under $50,000 in reagents.
On November 15, 2012, Helicos BioSciences filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The patents that Helicos had licensed from Cal Tech (where Quake was when he made the underlying inventions) were subsequently licensed to Direct Genomics, founded by He Jiankui, a former post-doc in Quake's lab who gained notoriety in November 2018 when he created the first germline genome-edited babies.