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NGS Now Accounts for More Than Half of Gene Expression Sales, Illumina CEO Says

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By Justin Petrone

More gene expression studies are being performed today on next-generation sequencing instruments than microarrays, according to Illumina's CEO.

Jay Flatley believes that "more than 50 percent of revenue in the expression market is in sequencing as opposed to microarrays," and predicted that the transition from arrays to sequencing will continue in this area. Flatley's comments were webcast from the Leerink Swann Life Science Tools and Diagnostics Roundtable Conference, held in New York this week.

According to Flatley, sales of arrays now comprise 40 percent of the San Diego vendor's total revenues, while sequencing sales make up most of the remaining 60 percent. Flatley told investors that Illumina is the "number one player" in the whole-genome genotyping market, and that it is the "number two player behind Affymetrix" when it comes to gene expression arrays.

Still, the company is seeing the bulk of expression studies carried out on its sequencers as opposed to its arrays. "Certainly, gene expression arrays is one area that is transferring very fast to sequencing," said Flatley. "NGS is fully digital — you are counting exact transcripts of your sample," he said. "[With microarrays, you are picking a probe that measures expression in a subjective analog way the amount a gene is expressed in a sample," he added.

Flatley predicted that sales of genotyping chips to researchers conducting association studies will pick up later this year as the first discoveries made with the firm's next-generation Omni arrays are published. "Presuming good outcomes, we'll see a return to growth in the GWAS segment of our array business," Flatley predicted.

While GWAS-related sales have not yet rebounded to the levels of a few years ago, Illumina's array business has nevertheless been growing in recent quarters. During the firm's second-quarter earnings call in late July, Flatley said that microarray revenues grew more than 10 percent year over year, which he attributed to consumables growth across its array products, particularly whole-genome genotyping arrays for genome-wide association studies.

"We shipped more samples of GWAS arrays than in any other quarter in our history," Flatley said during the call. He added that demand also rose for its custom-content and focused-content arrays (BAN 8/3/2011).

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