The Intro Guide to Illumina (ILMN): Inside the DNA Sequencing Leader


Illumina Inc. (ILMNAnalyst Report) is a California based biotech company offering an assortment of microarray-based products and services for an expanding range of genetic analysis sequencing; to simplify products that assist with studying and analyzing DNA and RNA strands.

Some of these products include SNP genotyping, gene expression, and protein analysis (more information on these products below).These technologies and products Illumina has created are used by an eclectic group of academic, government, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and other leading institutions across the world.

Why You Should Care

ILMN has been a truly impressive company from an investment perspective and a big winner for those who have been in the stock for the long haul. In fact, shares of ILMN have gained over 10% in the first five months of 2015, while they have skyrocketed nearly 230% from the start of 2013 to the start of 2015 alone.

However, there is reason to believe that ILMN still has room to run. According to our data here at Zacks, the genome company has a 21.11% Expected EPS Growth figure, a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), and a Top 40% Zacks Industry Rank too.

With these promising financial figures, let’s examine the history, goals, and current projects of the company for those who might be considering a purchase of this impressive company for their portfolios:

A Brief History of Illumina

Illumina was founded by David Walt, Ph.D. of Tufts University and inventor of BeadArray technology, Larry Bock of venture capitalist firm the CW Group, John Stuelpnagel, D.V.M., Anthony Czarnik, Ph.D., and Mark Chee, Ph.D on April 1, 1998. The company completed its initial public offering on July 1, 2000, generating over $100 million.

The ensuing eight years after Illumina’s IPO marked many notable moments, especially with the development of new technologies. In 2001, Illumina began offering SNP genotyping services using its production-scale systems and GoldenGate Genotyping Technology. The company followed up this launch in 2002 with the introduction of the fully-integrated SNP genotyping system, the BeadLab system , to sell commercially for the leading global genotyping facilities. More than 60% of the data for the International HapMap project Phase I was generated using this platform and the previously created GoldenGate Assay.

In 2003, Illumina launched a second genetic analysis application labeled “gene expression arrays.” These gene expression profiles featured the world’s first multi-sample chip formats and the industry’s only 100% array QC.

2004 was a year that saw two important launches for the company. The first of Illumina’s technology launch that became readily available to important international genome laboratories and researchers was the BeadStation system , a benchtop solution that runs both DNA and RNA analysis applications.

The second of these technology launches was Illumina’s DASL Assay, which is an approach for generating gene expression profiles from partially degraded RNA samples. Some of these RNA samples include those found in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples, which is a common method of preserving samples from biopsies. An estimated 400 million FFPE samples exist in the U.S. for cancer alone.

Between 2005 and 2008, Illumina has performed notable genome sequences on different organisms. In 2005, the company introduced the world’s first whole-genome expression arrays for the mouse. In 2006, Illumina introduced the world’s first whole-genome expression arrays for the rat. In 2008, Illumina scientists sequenced the genome of an anonymous African male using the Genome Analyzer.

Today, Illumina claims to be a “global leader in genomics – an industry at the intersection of biology and technology. At the most fundamental level, we enable our customers to read and understand genetic variations. We strive to make our solutions increasingly simple, more accessible, and always reliable. As a result, discoveries that were unimaginable even a few years ago are now becoming routine – and are making their way into patient treatment.

The company’s future endeavors focus on finding improved methods to develop a fuller and more comprehensive understanding of genomes. Illumina writes it “now has the ability to sequence at an unprecedented scale. Collectively, this will give us a much deeper understanding of genetics than ever before. We will begin to truly unlock the power of the genome. These advances will trigger a fundamental shift in healthcare and beyond. Medicine will continue to become more preventive and more precise. We will be healthier, longer. We have only just begun.”

Illumina’s Technology and Products

For all non-geneticists, some of the terms used in this article so far are extremely complicated. Illumina does provide simple overviews of the technologies the company uses. The terminology and technologies is as followed:

  • SNP Genotyping : A method of determining variation in genetic sequences.
  • Whole Genome Sequencing: A process to determine the entire genome sequence of a given individual or organism.
  • Gene Expression & Transcriptome Profiling : The analysis of which genes and transcripts are expressed in a given sample.
  • Epigenetics : The study of heritable changes in gene regulation that occur without a change in the DNA sequence
  • BeadArray Technology : A fundamentally different approach to high-density microarrays.
  • Next-Generation Sequencing : Sequencing with unprecedented throughput, scalability, and speed. See what NGS can do for you.
  • Sequencing by Synthesis (SBS) Technology : A highly economical, scalable NGS technology with unparalleled data density.
  • Long-Read Sequencing Technology : An innovative sequencing technology for generating long reads that combines a new library prep method and bioinformatics tools.

Furthermore, Illumina offers 103 different products that use these technologies to perform the different type of genome sequencing and profiling previously listed.

Bottom Line

Illumina is not only one of the most important companies in biomedicine, but also a leading company in the field. Despite its standing, Illumina is still a name not recognized by the public. According to a report from Forbes in April of this year, the DNA sequencing market will exceed $20 billion in the near future.

Moreover, the same Forbes article makes note that “a year ago, a Goldman Sachs analyst predicted that Illumina would capture 75% of that exploding sequencing market, all the way out to 2020.” Illumina is in route to monopolize the DNA sequencing market. With the history of producing innovative products and technologies over the past 15 years, Illumina may have this market all to itself sooner rather than later.

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