NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Joining Illumina as a subsidiary company will help laboratory information management systems (LIMS) developer GenoLogics reach a broader pool of customers and offers opportunities and resources for much deeper product integrations with the sequencing company's instruments, software, and other products, according to former GenoLogics CEO Michael Ball.
The acquisition also gives GenoLogics access to Illumina's plans for its informatics portfolio and product developments strategies, Ball told GenomeWeb in a recent interview, enabling the company to develop and make available new capabilities for Clarity LIMS that support Illumina's offerings much earlier than was previously possible.
Illumina first disclosed plans to purchase GenoLogics for an undisclosed amount in early August, and completed the acquisition in early September. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, GenoLogics becomes part of Illumina's enterprise informatics business unit, under the purview of Sanjay Chikarmane, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise informatics.
In a conversation with GenomeWeb, Chikarmane echoed Ball's comments about tighter integration and greater access to each other's roadmaps, and added that Illumina saw GenoLogics products as complementary to its existing portfolio. That portfolio includes BaseSpace, which as of July this year offered access to over 60 applications including 30 third-party tools developed through Illumina's native apps development program and the remainder internally developed apps created through the BaseSpace Core and the BaseSpace Labs programs. It also includes products from Illumina's 2013 acquisition of NextBio, a developer of software for clinical and translational medicine applications.
Privately held GenoLogics will retain its office in Victoria, British Columbia but is moving its Redwood City, California-based staff to a new quarters in an Illumina facility in the same city, Ball said. All 60 company employees are staying on with the company. Ball will continue to run the GenoLogics business under its new owner and will also take on a vice president role within Illumina's enterprise informatics unit, he told GenomeWeb.
While it wasn't necessarily looking to be acquired, the opportunity to be in closer relationship with Illumina, helped sealed the deal for GenoLogics, Ball said. "We already had a strong relationship with Illumina, we felt that [the acquisition] would provide us better reach into the market and it would allow us to develop a more complete products for customers," he told GenomeWeb. "Our customers are always asking for tighter integration with instrumentation, with informatics solutions, and other things, [and] we felt this would give us the means to be able to continue to develop Clarity LIMS and also to expand it further."
The partnership between the two firms dates back to at least early 2011, when Illumina signed an agreement with GenoLogics to market a version of its software — then called Geneus LIMS — which had been preconfigured to handle data from Illumina's HiSeq and Genome Analyzer sequencing platforms and its TruSeq sample preparation kits. Later that same year, GenoLogics raised $8 million in an Illumina-led financing round.
GenoLogics revamped and relaunched Geneus LIMS as Clarity LIMS in 2012, touting it as LIMS software that was designed specifically to manage sequencing data in CLIA-regulated environments and research settings. This version of the software supported Illumina's HiSeq, MiSeq, and Genome Analyzer sequencers; Life Technologies' Ion Torrent system — the company is now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific; and Roche's 454 sequencers; as well as arrays provided by these vendors. GenoLogics was also one of several commercial companies that signed up to develop apps for Illumina's BaseSpace cloud infrastructure.
In addition, in 2013, Illumina's CLIA laboratory licensed Clarity LIMS to support its TruSight individual genome sequencing test. Then last year, GenoLogics announced plans to update Clarity to support Illumina's HiSeq X Ten sequencing system.
For now, the companies are not disclosing details about planned product integrations or future development plans for Clarity LIMS, but they expect to do so over the next few months. "We already have a strategy around BaseSpace integration which we'll probably accelerate," Ball said. "Broadly, we will be looking to closely integrate with all of the other products within the Illumina enterprise informatics business unit. That was already on our roadmap, so I think it will just happen a little faster."
Ball also said that current customers can expect to continue to access Clarity LIMS as they always have. The company's customers include early-stage molecular diagnostics companies and hospital laboratories that are starting to offer NGS-based diagnostic tests and panels. The list includes the Science for Life Laboratory, GenomeDx, and Personalis.
Ball said that GenoLogics will continue to offer Clarity LIMS as a standalone offering as it explores possible integrations with other Illumina products. Though it also will continue to support products offered by other companies, he added.
Furthermore, there'll be relatively little change to GenoLogics' product roadmap under its new ownership, Ball said. The company will continue to focus on the clinical genomics marketplace as well as on the population sequencing market, where it is starting to see strong demand for its LIMS, he said. GenoLogics' Clarity competes with products like UniConnect's Precision MDx LIMS, which also targets CAP/CLIA-certified molecular testing laboratories such as MedCompGx, a division of MedComp Sciences, which in July selected its system to handle its genetic testing activity.
In the coming months, Illumina will unveil new capabilities for BaseSpace, some of which were developed in response to feedback from current customers and others that will target new user markets, Chikarmane said. The company also plans to add some new tertiary analysis capabilities to its existing portfolio in the near future, but Chikarmane declined to discuss the new offerings in details.
He also declined to comment specifically on whether Illumina might be in the market for additional informatics businesses, but didn't rule out the possibility. "For any company that's growing like ours, it's always a mix of organic development where it makes sense and partnerships like we've done with GenoLogics as well as potentially acquisitions," he said.
With the GenoLogics buy, Illumina believes it now offers the most complete suite of bioinformatics solutions on the market. However, NGS is still a growing and evolving field and "there are always new customer needs, so I don't think we've seen the end of it," Chikarmane said.