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Illumina Stands to Gain More than $6M in UK Colorectal Cancer Genotyping Project

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Illumina will provide genotyping services to colorectal cancer researchers funded by Cancer Research UK, the company said last week.

The multi-million dollar project will focus on colorectal cancer susceptibility, genetic mutations, and the progression of the disease. Illumina CEO Jay Flatley told BioArray News this week that the agreement was beneficial to his company for two main reasons.

First of all, "it is obviously a very interesting disease area," he said. "We are adding an increasing number of these sorts of large projects that are working on some of the most fundamental potential discoveries that can improve human health."

In addition, he continued, "it is also a financially very large deal for us, one of the largest that's ever been done."

Flatley declined to discuss the financial details of the study, but based on publicly available information, it appears that Illumina may earn more than $6-8 million from the deal. Flatley said that the financial impact would most likely be seen next year, as the cooperation will officially begin in 2006 when Illumina begins shipping its 250K SNP chips

According to a joint statement from Illumina and Cancer Research UK, the agreement consists of two major phases. Both phases will use Illumina's Sentrix arrays and Infinium assay.

In the first phase, Illumina will genotype samples from 4,000 classified colorectal patients and controls with Sentrix HumanHap-1 BeadChips and Sentrix HumanHap-1S BeadChips using the Infinum assay. The two BeadChips will enable genotyping of over 500,000 SNPs per sample, the company said. In the second phase, Illumina will genotype more than 10,000 samples using a custom multi-sample BeadChip to analyze 20,000 SNPs per sample.

The SNP content is derived from tag SNPs identified in the HapMap Project.

Illumina will work with two research groups: one based in Edinburgh and led by Edinburgh University's Colon Cancer Genetics Group, and the other based in London and consisting of the molecular and population genetics teams from the Institute of Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute.

Representatives from Cancer Research UK did not respond to questions by press time. Cancer Research UK is also currently bankrolling a genotyping project focused on breast cancer being carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Perlegen Life Sciences.

Flatley said that this was the first direct partnership Illumina has had with Cancer Research UK, although it has been involved in projects that have received funding from the institute.

Separately, he said that the company is increasing its presence in Europe, and will add sales representatives and support in Scandinavia shortly. The company already has approximately 12 to 15 representatives in the UK and in continental Europe.

— Justin Petrone ([email protected])

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