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Aiming at '$12B Opportunity,' Illumina to Expand Sales Presence, Invest in Reproductive Health

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Illumina plans to expand its sales presence both at home and abroad as decreasing prices for its microarray and sequencing products allow it to reach new customers, according to a company executive.

Christian Henry, general manager of Illumina's Genomics Solutions business, provided an update on the company at the RW Baird Growth Stock Conference, held last week in Chicago.

According to Henry, whose remarks were webcast, Illumina will "add significantly" to its sales force this year to reach customers in emerging markets.

"We see more opportunities as the products become more affordable to penetrate deeper into areas of Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, India, and other territories, where there are significant opportunities as the right price points," said Henry. The company opened an office in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2011 to more directly reach Latin American customers (BAN 1/25/2011).

American customers will not be ignored though. "We are well-covered in the US, but we see opportunities to continue expanding there, as well," said Henry, noting that the firm is redrawing its sales territories to reach customers it may have missed in the past, and "get to the lab down the hallway and around the quarter a lot faster."

Illumina, which posted total 2012 revenues of about $1.2 billion, is undertaking the commercial expansion to position itself for growth in multiple markets that combined represent about a $12 billion opportunity, according to Henry.

The "vast majority" of the firm's revenues are in life science research, which represents a $4 billion opportunity on a global and annual basis, Henry said. Other markets that the company is moving into include what it calls the applied markets of agriculture and forensics, which taken together amount to a $1 billion opportunity; a $1 billion reproductive health market; and Illumina's "largest opportunity," the clinical and translational medicine market, which Henry pegged at $6 billion.

In terms of the company's microarray business, Henry described Illumina as the market leader, "with about an 80 percent share in DNA genotyping," a claim the company has made in the past (BAN 5/15/2012). While he acknowledged that next-generation sequencing is "where the vast majority of our growth is coming from," he reminded investors of the company's "whole family of array products," naming its menu of exome arrays in particular, as "products that enable customers to [cost-effectively] look at subsets of the genome."

Illumina's exome arrays have continued to be among its best selling array products since they were introduced at the end of 2011 (BAN 10/11/2012). As customers can analyze 12 samples on each chip, Henry said that the arrays have a "high-throughput capability" that other approaches lack, and described array-based analysis as a "very economical method" for researchers.

During his presentation at Baird, Henry briefly touched on the firm's September 2012 acquisition of Cambridge, UK-based BlueGnome, casting the purchase of the chromosomal microarray and data analysis supplier as part of a larger focus on reproductive health that included its March 2013 acquisition of Verinata Health. In addition to expanding its commercial organization, Henry said that Illumina will continue to invest in its reproductive health business this year.

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