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Illumina Focuses on New Sequencer, Array Products; Q4 Revenues to Beat Estimates

SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb News) – Illumina officials today unveiled a brand new sequencer that includes a variety of upgraded features over its Genome Analyzer and announced that it had received its first order for the system — 128 of them — from China's BGI.

The launch of the HiSeq 2000 was a focal point of Illumina President and CEO Jay Flatley's presentation here today at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. He also provided preliminary fourth-quarter and 2009 revenue figures, and said that the firm's new OmniExpress chip should help revitalize a sagging genome-wide association studies field.

The announcement of the BGI order caused a stir in the presentation room, as Flatley laid out the capabilities of the new system, which he said would enable BGI to sequence 11,000 human genomes per year. The HiSeq has two flow cells, instead of the one on the Genome Analyzer, and is capable of 200 gigabases per run, said Flatley. It also offers remote monitoring capabilities and plug and play reagents.

According to Flatley, the system brings the cost of sequencing a human genome to the sub-$10,000 level.

Flatley said that the HiSeq "opens the arms race" for high-throughput sequencing. The system has a list price of $690,000, with double the reagent costs of the Genome Analyzer due to the extra flow cell. Genome Analyzer reagent costs were $100,000 to $200,000 per year, depending on use.

Illumina will begin shipments of the HiSeq next month, and the firm anticipates a trade-in program from customers currently using the Genome Analyzer. However, Flatley said the GA will remain on the market.

He also said that the eventual commercialization of technology from Avantome, which Illumina acquired last year, will target the low end of the sequencing market, providing the firm with entries across the price spectrum.

BGI Order

The BGI order is the largest single order Illumina has received for its sequencers, it said. The majority of the units will go to BGI's new genome center in Hong Kong. Illumina plans to begin installing the units in the first quarter of this year and the remaining instruments will be delivered over the following three quarters.

Flatley said during a Q&A session after his presentation that the revenues associated with the BGI order will be amortized over three years. However, the firm is not providing financial details.

BGI, which is headquartered in Shenzhen and has branches in other cities, changed its name from Beijing Genomics Institute two years ago because it is no longer exclusively located in Beijing.

BGI recently signed a long-term agreement with China Development Bank that gives the institute $1.5 billion in funding. The institute said that it plans to use to build research and application platforms for healthcare, agriculture, bio-energy, and other uses.

"Our goal is to build partnerships and collaborations around the world that contribute to the overall improvement of our global society," BGI's VP Xiuging Zhang said in a statement.

"Creating solutions that enhance agriculture and food production, for example, are a key focus for us, as well as more region-specific programs, such as the development of the personal genomics field in China."

BeadChip Launch

In addition to the HiSeq 2000, Flatley highlighted the launch this week of the OmniExpress BeadChip. The new 12-sample chip enables researchers to interrogate more than 700,000 variants per sample, according to the firm. Using Illumina's iScan System, customers that run OmniExpress chips can process around 1,400 samples per week.

Flatley believes the new chip will help revive the GWAS market, which slowed considerably last year.

Flatley also announced unaudited fourth-quarter revenues of $176 million, above the roughly $168 million predicted by analysts. Illumina has decided to stop providing quarterly guidance, Flatley said today. But he said that the firm expects 2010 revenue growth of at least 20 percent.

Investors responded favorably to Illumina's announcements on Tuesday. At close of market, shares in the company were trading on Nasdaq at $39.17, a 15.8 percent increase from Monday's closing price of $33.82.


See this week's issues of In Sequence and BioArray News for detailed articles on the new launches.

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