Staying the course, changing the sequencing game
Name: Jay Flatley
Title: CEO, Illumina
After resisting a multibillion-dollar buyout from Roche ($RHHBY) several times in 2012, CEO Jay Flatley has taken Illumina to new heights, claiming an integral part of biotech's promising sequencing future along the way. And the investors he convinced to stick with him instead of opting for a buyout must surely be happy they did.
Early this year, when Flatley declared the San Diego company ($ILMN) had cut the cost of human genome sequencing to $1,000, he heralded a new era in which inexpensive sequencing could answer the most daunting questions in healthcare. On top of that, Illumina under Flatley recovered from what could have been a devastating patent loss to Syntrix Biosystems to reach an impressive 24% sales growth for the year of 2013.
Flatley, CEO of Illumina since 1999, led the company from small beginnings to becoming a powerhouse in the sequencing and diagnostics space. According to the company, sales grew under his leadership from $1.3 million in 2000 to more than $1.15 billion in 2012. This growth came about with the launch of more than 50 major products, and Illumina has become the leading provider of genetic analysis technologies. Forbes said in 2013 that "90% of DNA letters analyzed by scientists are sequenced on Illumina's machines."
In 2013, Illumina boasted $1.4 billion in revenue, stymied in part by a $115 million legal charge tied to a lawsuit the company lost to Syntrix BioSystems. Illumina's BeadChip array, used in DNA and RNA analysis, came under fire for having, as the court decided, infringed on Syntrix's sequencing technology. Illumina denied the charges, and is planning to strike back. But what could have been a major blow became a minor blip in an otherwise successful year for Illumina and Flatley.
When Flatley unveiled the HiSeq X Ten sequencer earlier this year at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the industry listened closely. Although the system costs $10 million, what Illumina is offering is a low-cost way to sequence human genomes on an unprecedented scale. At a cost of $1,000, the 10-machine system can sequence 20,000 genomes a year, the company says. Illumina expects to sell 5 of them in 2014.
"To figure out cancer, we need to sequence hundreds of thousands of cancer genomes, and this is the way to do it," Flatley told BusinessWeek at the time. Wells Fargo analyst Tim Evans followed suit in a note titled "Not Just A Splash--A Cannonball," in which he predicted that the HiSeq X Ten "will secure Illumina's dominance in high-throughput for an extended period of time."
-- Michael Gibney (email | Twitter)
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