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Illumina Ships Record Number of Eco Real-Time PCR System in Q2

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Illumina this week reported that it shipped a record number of its year-old Eco real-time PCR systems in the second quarter of 2011, contributing to a 53 percent increase in the company's year-over-year instrument revenues.

"During the quarter, we significantly ramped our manufacturing capacity for the Eco real-time PCR instrument, more than doubling the number of units shipped" from the previous quarter, Illumina CEO Jay Flatley said during a conference call discussing the company's Q2 and half-year financial results.

Flatley added that strong demand for the Eco "continues to be driven by the combination of performance features and market-disruptive pricing," although he did not quantify demand for the instrument.

Illumina launched the Eco last July following the acquisition of Helixis, which developed the platform's underlying technology. The sub-$15,000 system is aimed at researchers desiring a personal benchtop PCR instrument with performance comparable to more expensive systems often found in core labs (PCR Insider, 7/29/10).

Early uptake of the platform was strong, with fourth-quarter 2010 orders for the Eco tripling from Q3 2010; however, this past January Illumina reported that it was not able to manufacture enough instruments to meet demand, a problem it planned to address by moving manufacturing of the box to its Singapore facility.

In April, Flatley told investors that those supply constraints had largely been solved (PCR Insider, 4/28/11); and this week the company again underscored strong sales for the product.

"We basically had a record quarter of shipments, and we've been scaling that up every single quarter," Christian Henry, Illumina's CFO and GM of the Life Sciences business unit, said during the conference call.

"It's a very disruptive box because it sells at a very low price and packs a really big punch in terms of its performance," Henry said. "We're seeing nice uptick of the system, particularly outside of the United States … and so we're pretty happy with that."

Henry also pointed out that Helixis has been fully integrated into Illumina, and that the combined entity "is already developing new products for Helixis reagents and boxes and all kinds of different things. They're fully integrated into our R&D programs, our manufacturing operations program."

Henry also said that Illumina expected to begin receiving some tax benefits in the third quarter based on the recent move of Eco manufacturing to the company's Singapore facility.

Illumina's instrument revenues increased 53 percent year over year to $107 million in Q2 as part of a 36 percent increase in overall company revenues to $287.5 million from $212 million in the year-ago period.

Despite the continued growth of the Eco system, the company did not highlight it as one of the major contributors to revenue growth in the instrument division, instead underscoring sales of the company's HiSeq, HiScan, and HiScanSQ systems for sequencing and gene expression analysis.