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Illumina Plans Suite of Focused Genotyping Chips, Sees Slight Delay in 'Resurgence' of GWAS Market

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By Justin Petrone

Illumina is preparing to launch more focused whole-genome genotyping arrays for use in genome-wide association studies, even as it gathers content for its next major BeadChip release, the Omni5, which is scheduled to launch next year.

Chief Financial Officer Christian Henry said this week that adoption of the firm's HumanOmni2.5-Quad DNA Analysis BeadChip is "ahead of expectations," and that its customers are "converting to the 2.5M from the 1M and other legacy products."

Henry made his remarks during a presentation at Morgan Stanley's Global Health Care Conference, held this week in New York.

Illumina launched the 2.5M in June. The chip contains common and rare variants from the 1000 Genomes Project, is available in a four-sample format composed of approximately 10 million markers per array, and is compatible with the company's iScan or HiScan system (BAN 6/8/2010).

While Illumina moves customers to the 2.5M, the firm is planning more arrays to serve GWAS customers, starting with a 5-million SNP BeadChip that Illumina anticipates will launch next year. Beyond that, the company imagines making more focused genotyping arrays available to clients.

"We have launched the 2.5M, we will launch the 5M sometime later next year, and we will have the ability to launch a whole suite of products that will be dependent on various ethnicities," Henry said. He added that the firm is ready to make and sell "different flavors of 2.5M or 5M or 1M, depending on what the customer base is telling us," and hinted at even denser genotyping arrays. "Our new platform allows extension into 5M and even beyond that," he said.

Illumina's interest in making population-focused arrays available is not new. For instance, the firm has in the past sold a HumanHap650Y Genotyping BeadChip for studying African populations. At the same time, its main rival in the GWAS market, Affymetrix, has also pledged to introduce ethnicity-themed arrays to the marketplace, beginning with an Asian population-themed array later this year (BAN 8/3/2010).

While Illumina last year predicted that the GWAS market would return to high levels of growth in the second half of 2010, Henry this week said that this resurgence will occur next year instead.

"In 2009, we saw the business decline," Henry said. "Our view was that people were waiting for content to come out of 1000 Genomes Project to reinitiate studies," he said. "What we have seen in the first half of this year is that people are getting back into arrays, repowering studies with additional content, and are contemplating or starting to work on new studies."

These early studies will "be foundational in driving what the next wave of GWAS will look like for the company," Henry said. "Sometime in the first half of next year you will see that resurgence."

Henry added that the fact that Illumina has seen its latest generation chips adopted in new projects is a sign of a market revival. "Just having new projects getting initiated gives you inertia," he said. "Researchers talk to each other," said Henry. "I think we have turned the corner overall."

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