JPM: Illumina's genomic ambitions fueled by new sequencing tools and technology

Illumina's MiniSeq Sequencing System--Courtesy of Illumina

Illumina ($ILMN) has been on a roll this week after launching its new liquid biopsy startup, and the pace isn't showing any signs of slowing. The company revealed additions to its genomics portfolio at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference and separately announced a deal with Bio-Rad Laboratories ($BIO) to develop a next-generation sequencing (NGS) solution for single-cell analysis.

The San Diego-based company wants to approach 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, with the end goal of making sequencing "more widely accessible" for customers. The company's latest genomics offerings play into those ambitions.

Illumina is launching a new MiniSeq System that helps labs run targeted sequencing on different samples, from single genes to entire pathways, all in one go. The system, which runs at about $49,500, "addresses the capital concerns" some labs have about taking on a sequencer, Fellis said. MiniSeq could also make sequencing more accessible, he added, as researchers can upload data through Illumina's cloud-based computing system. If all goes to plan, the company will begin shipping MiniSeq during the first quarter this year, Illumina said in a statement.

In addition to MiniSeq, Illumina is also unveiling a BeadChip system called Infinium XT. The product is tailored to large-scale genotyping, allowing labs to test up to 50,000 markers per sample. Illumina sees different applications for the technology including biobanks and personalized medicine initiatives, Fellis said, and expects to start shipping the product in Q3 2016.

Meanwhile, the company will further flesh out its genomics portfolio with Project Firefly, a new "plug and play" sequencer that includes two modules and digital fluidics technology that could make it easier for labs to prepare and run samples. Illumina is shooting to roll out the system in the "back half of 2017," Fellis said.

Illumina this week also said that it will team up with Bio-Rad Labs to create a tool for single-cell genomics. The product will combine Bio-Rad's droplet portioning technology with Illumina's NGS technology to isolate and barcode single cells in just a few minutes, the companies said in a statement, which could come in handy in studies of tissues with multiple cell types.

"By collaborating with Bio-Rad, both companies will be able to serve the significant market for single-cell NGS, enabling scientists to make groundbreaking advances in gene expression and beyond," Illumina CCO and EVP Christian Henry said in a statement.

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