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Illumina Says BlueGnome Buy is Step Toward Broader Cytogenetics Strategy Based on Arrays, Sequencing

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Illumina said today that its acquisition of BlueGnome, which develops microarray-based products for prenatal implantation genetic screening and cytogenetics, will give it an opportunity to expand its footprint in the cytogenetics market with both array- and sequencing-based offerings.

Illumina, based in San Diego, Calif., purchased privately held, Cambridge, UK-based BlueGnome for an undisclosed amount. BlueGnome will continue to be run by its founders Nick Haan and Graham Snudden and will operate under Illumina's Diagnostics business. Haan and Snudden will report to Greg Heath, senior vice president and general manager of diagnostics at Illumina.

Heath told Clinical Sequencing News via email that Illumina "plans to develop an integrated product strategy over time. We anticipate jointly developing complete solutions for cytogenetics based on next-generation array- and sequencing-based products."

The acquisition gives Illumina access to BlueGnome's offerings, which include array-based products to screen for chromosomal abnormalities in in-vitro fertilization applications; its CytoChip Cancer array, which screens 670 cancer genes; and its BlueFuse software, for automating analysis.

These products will add to Illumina's existing cytogenetics offering, which includes the HumanCytoSNP-12, HumanOmniExpress, HumanOmni2.5-8, and HumanOmni5-Quad BeadChips. Illumina has been pursuing US Food and Drug Administration clearance for its cyto array products.

At the UBS Life Sciences conference today in New York, Christian Henry, Illumina's senior vice president and general manager of genomics, said that the acquisition would allow Illumina to incorporate the BlueFuse software into its own products, such as its BaseSpace cloud computing platform for next-gen sequencing data.

BaseSpace is currently compatible with the Illumina MiSeq instrument, but will be compatible with HiSeq in the fourth quarter of this year.

Eventually, said Henry, Illumina's technologies could be applied to BlueGnome's workflows.

"In addition to continuing to offer BlueGnome's current products, Illumina is exploring incorporating its array and sequencing technologies into the BlueFuse workflow," explained Heath.

The BlueGnome acquisition is Illumina's latest move in building out its Diagnostics business. Earlier this month, it said that it plans to hire an associate director of medical affairs as it expands its commercial and clinical infrastructure in preparation for submitting products to the US Food and Drug Administration for 510(k) clearance (CSN 9/5/2012).

The company has also been expanding its other clinically focused business arm, the Translational and Consumer Genomics unit, with the launch of its TruSight targeted sequencing panels and collaboration with Partners HealthCare for clinical interpretation of sequencing data (CSN 9/12/2012).

Following the announcement of the BlueGnome purchase, market analyst Isaac Ro of Goldman Sachs wrote that the acquisition, along with Illumina's TruSight product launch, "increasingly suggest that a large Dx acquisition is less likely in the near term."

Instead, Ro believes that Illumina "will continue to focus on small tuck-ins and internal R&D to grow its Dx franchise."

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