Illumina finds match in Australian genomics company for transplant sequencing work

Alex Lindell, Illumina's associate director of market development for HLA

Illumina ($ILMN) is off to a racing start in 2016, and the pace isn't showing any signs of slowing. The company is snatching up Conexio Genomics to get its hands on Conexio's transplant genotyping products, a couple of weeks after it unveiled its liquid biopsy spinoff and expanded genomics offerings.

Neither side is revealing financial details, but the deal will help Illumina develop next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based transplant diagnostic tests, including a tool that allows scientists to look at genomic variants that can cause problems during transplants. Illumina will also inherit Australia-based Conexio's HLA (human leukocyte antigen) typing solutions, which are used to match patients with potential transplant donors.

Studies have shown that identifying the variants could reduce the risk of severe acute graft-versus-host-disease (aGVHD) in patients, or a condition where newly transplanted donor cells attack the transplant in the recipient's body, the company said on its website. Illumina will harness Conexio's HLA typing capabilities to create tools that can address gaping problems in transplant procedures.

"The addition of Conexio products and people solidify our HLA capabilities and demonstrate Illumina's ongoing commitment to HLA and ultimately, to the field of transplant science," said Alex Lindell, Illumina's associate director of market development for HLA. "We look forward to working with the Conexio team to enhance our HLA offerings."

The move comes a couple weeks after Illumina revealed its liquid biopsy spinoff, GRAIL, and new sequencing tools at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. The San Diego-based company locked down $100 million in financing for its liquid biopsy venture, drawing investments from the likes of Bill Gates and Sutter Hill Ventures. GRAIL will capitalize on Illumina's sequencing prowess to pinpoint nucleic acids from tumors in the bloodstream, potentially finding the disease in earlier stages.

"We hope today is a turning point in the war on cancer," CEO Jay Flatley said when GRAIL was launched. "By enabling the early detection of cancer in asymptomatic individuals through a simple blood screen, we aim to massively decrease cancer mortality by detecting the disease at a curable stage."

Illumina also recently revealed additions to its genomics portfolio. The company's end goal is to take genomics "from the low and high-throughput side to make sequencing ubiquitous across a wide range of markets," Joel Fellis, Illumina's associate director of product marketing, told FierceMedicalDevices at the time. And a new sequencing system and large-scale genotyping platform should help the company along the way.

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