Illumina teams with Australian outfit to offer prenatal testing

Genomics heavyweight Illumina ($ILMN) wasted no time pursuing partnerships after settling a bitter patent feud with Sequenom ($SQNM) to license its sequencing technology to outside labs.

Illumina is collaborating with Australia's Victorian Clinical Genetics Services (VCGS), a subsidiary of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute that provides genetic testing services. The organization wants to use the San Diego company's technology to roll out a prenatal testing service.

VCGS plans to begin offering noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) in early 2015, the organization said. NIPT involves a blood-screening method meant to detect specific chromosomal abnormalities in a developing baby, such as Down syndrome.

"Under our arrangement with Illumina we will purchase Illumina's sequencing products and develop and perform our own NIPT test in our NATA accredited testing laboratory in Parkville, Melbourne," VCGS says in a statement on its website.

VCGS will use Illumina's test send-out service to process the prenatal test results at the American company's clinical testing laboratory. But VCGS will eventually be able to perform the tests on-site, cutting down on the time it takes to deliver results to women.

The VCGS test, based on lllumina's verifi prenatal diagnostic, requires a sample of maternal blood, which is then used to analyze the pregnant woman's DNA. In a February study that compared the verifi test to traditional screening methods, the Illumina diagnostic proved to be a more accurate indicator of fetal abnormalities.

In a fast-growing and highly competitive space, lllumina and Sequenom have resolved all pending infringement claims and said they will pool their resources to further develop NIPTs. Still, the companies face contenders like Ariosa Diagnostics and Natera, which are also chasing profits.

- get more from VCGS

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