Genomics companies finally bear fruit

Daiichi Sankyo paid almost a billion dollars last month to get its hands on Plexxicon's PLX4032, a melanoma drug that turns off a signal that tells cells to divide. Plexxicon discovered the drug using a gene sequencing machine from Applied Biosystems. More recently, the FDA approved Human Genome Sciences' Benlysta, which was developed using genomics technology that identified proteins that cause lupus. Santaris Pharma is conducting a late-stage hepatitis C trial of a drug that prevents the virus from being grown in the liver.

It took 2,000 scientists more than 10 years and $2.7 billion to map the human genome, an achievement many people thought would lead to a slew of targeted drugs. But like many new technologies, genomics initially failed to live up to the hype. However, years after the breakthrough, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are starting to make real progress using sequencing technology to develop groundbreaking drugs.

Genomics companies--such as Illumina, Life Technologies and Pacific Biosciences--are piling into the space, further driving down the technology's cost. BusinessWeek notes that 30 companies compete in the genomics industry. The developers were responsible for $3 billion in sales last year; Deutsche Bank tells the paper that sales from these companies are expected to grow 10 percent each year for the next five years. The promise of lucrative returns lured venture capitalists to invest $261 million in the industry last year.

"No one believes this market will slow down any time in the next 10 years," Illumina CEO Jay Flatley tells BusinessWeek. "There's an infinite number of things to get sequenced."

- read the BusinessWeek article