|Illumina CEO Jay Flatley|
Illumina ($ILMN) has laid the groundwork for increased use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) in clinical research by striking a deal with AstraZeneca ($AZN), Janssen Biotech and Sanofi ($SNY). The deal could result in Illumina disrupting diagnostics using its dominance in NGS, a position it is confident it can maintain by offering clients a mix of machines and software.
Illumina and partners will create a test for 125 genes linked to cancer. AstraZeneca, Janssen and Sanofi will initially use the test in clinical trials, running samples through Illumina's FDA-approved MiSeqDx sequencer to assess the genetics of study participants. With Big Pharma developing pipelines of oncology drugs for a range of targets--which in some cases will be most effective in combination--an all-in-one panel could end the need to develop a test for each candidate.
"The goal is that everyone will use a universal panel," Illumina's chief medical officer Richard Klausner told Forbes. To move towards this goal, Illumina has learned which genes are most important to drug developers. Its allies will collaborate on the technical work needed to create the test and the regulatory barriers that must be cleared. Illumina has also committed to making the test available where its Big Pharma partners sell their drugs.
Striking the deal advances Illumina's attempts to increase use of NGS in clinical trials and medical practice, a scenario made possible by its work to lower the cost of sequencing. The success has given Illumina a dominant position in the NGS sector. And while Illumina knows competitors will keep coming at it, CEO Jay Flatley told Forbes he is confident the company's mix of machines to generate data and software to interpret it will make it a tough incumbent to topple.