Illumina strikes sequencing deal with England's 100K Genome Project

When Illumina ($ILMN) unveiled its HiSeq X Ten in January, the alignment between its capabilities and the needs of England's 100K Genome Project were clear. The project aims to sequence 100,000 genomes by 2017 for around $160 million, figures that only look achievable using the massive output and relatively low costs of the HiSeq X Ten. This week the tie-up became official.

Illumina has struck an agreement with Genomics England, the group set up by the United Kingdom government to run the project. Genomics England has picked Illumina as the preferred provider for the sequencing aspect of the project and is now working to tie up a definitive agreement. Illumina's dominance of the sequencing sector and the suitability of the HiSeq X Ten for population-scale work made it the obvious candidate for the project, but it still had to win the deal.

"We've been through the 'bake-off' process to find the right company to do the sequencing, and will now be entering detailed negotiations," Vivienne Parry, a spokesperson for Genomics England, told MIT Technology Review. Parry expects to finalize negotiations over the next two weeks. Once the deal is in place, Illumina will sequence genomes for Genomics England, freeing the team behind the 100K Genome Project of the need to establish in-house capabilities.

The HiSeq X Ten has gone a long way to making the numbers targeted by the 100K Genome Project look feasible. When the U.K. government first outlined its plans, the cost of genome sequencing was up around $3,000 to $4,000. Illumina claims HiSeq X Ten can sequence a genome for $1,000, but even if the actual figure is slightly higher it is still around the amount available to Genomics England.

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