Illumina elucidates the human genome. The firm makes tools used by life sciences and drug researchers to isolate and analyze genes. Its systems include the machinery and the software used to sequence pieces of DNA and RNA, and the means to put them through large-scale testing of genetic variation and biological function. Its proprietary BeadArray technology uses microscopic glass beads which can carry samples through the genotyping process. The tests allow medical researchers to determine what genetic combinations are associated with various diseases, enabling faster diagnosis, better drugs, and individualized treatment. Customers include pharma and biotech companies, research centers, and academic institutions.
In 2012 Illumina's board of directors rejected two hostile takeover bids from Swiss drugmaker Roche, one for $5.7 billion and the second for $6.7 billion. After shareholders further rejected Roche's attempt to elect members to Illumina's board, Roche -- which is looking to expand in the life science research and molecular diagnostics industries -- stated that it would not extend or raise its offer.
Though Illumina's expensive analysis systems are its primary focus, sales of such systems account for only about one-third of revenues, while the related consumables (chemical reagents, flow cells, and BeadChip microarrays) account for more than half of annual sales. Products are marketed directly and through independent distributors to life science researchers in medical, forensics, agriculture, and animal health industries around the globe.
For customers who choose not to buy its systems and consumables, Illumina offers outsourced life science research services such as genome sequencing and genotyping array services. Customers for such services, which account for less than 10% of sales, include schools, agricultural and energy biotech research firms, and drug development companies. In addition, the company has a consumer genomics unit (launched in 2009) to meet the growing demand for personal genome sequencing through physician intermediaries. And while most of the company's revenues come from providing life sciences equipment and services, Illumina has also established a small business in the field of molecular diagnostics, which uses genetic biomarkers to diagnose clinical health conditions.
Illumina gets about half of its annual revenues from sales in the US market. Other key regions include Europe (25% of sales) and the Asia/Pacific (20%). The company has increased revenues across all geographic markets in recent years, with sales in the Asia/Pacific region more than doubling from 2009 to 2011.
Illumina has steadily augmented its life sciences product lines, and has experienced rapidly climbing revenues in recent years as a result. The company reported a 17% increase in sales in 2011 to some $1.1 billion due to increased instrument sales (due to new product launches) and consumable sales (driven by a higher base of installed equipment), as well as a rise in its sequencing services segment. However, profits dropped by about 30% to some $87 million that year due to increased operating expenses from sales and marketing efforts, R&D programs, and headquarters relocation efforts. To help reduce those expenses, as well as to better insulate itself against economic uncertainties, Illumina announced a restructuring effort towards the end of 2011 that resulted in an 8% workforce reduction by mid-2012, as well as the consolidation of some facilities.
Through acquisitions and internal development efforts, Illumina is adding a full line of genetic analysis technologies including DNA sequencing (determining the order of DNA codes) and gene expression analysis (studying when genes switch on or off) to its existing expertise in genotyping (identifying the gene's nucleotide base, or code), making it a one-stop-shop for genetic researchers.
Illumina is conducting internal R&D programs as part of its efforts to make its systems faster and more affordable. One new product, the HiSeq 2000 instrument (based on technology gained through the 2007 acquisition of Solexa), allows for the sequencing of whole human genomes. The system was first launched in 2010 and was upgraded to lower the cost of whole genome analysis (to less than $5,000 in consumable costs) in 2011. As competition in the genome field intensified, in 2012 the company further introduced a next-generation version -- the HiSeq 2500 -- that allows sequencing in a one-day timeframe. Other new products include the HiScanSQ system (used to compare genotyping and gene expression tests) in 2010 and the MiSeq machine (personal sequencing for small-scale research) in 2011. Sales of these new systems and related consumable microarrays contributed strongly to sales growth during 2010 and 2011.
Outside of the life sciences segment, Illumina is working hard to expand its operations in the high-growth business of molecular diagnostics through both acquisitions and R&D efforts. To that end, the company received FDA approval in 2010 for its BeadXpress Multiplex analysis system (based on the VeraCode technology acquired in 2006), and it is developing molecular diagnostic tests for conditions such as heart disease, viral infections, and cancers for use with the new system. It is also exploring use of its iScan genotyping instrument to detect chromosomal abnormalities indicating mental and developmental disabilities, and it formed a partnership with Siemens in 2011 to conduct infectious disease testing and monitoring.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Acquisitions that have enhanced Illumina's offerings include the 2010 purchase of Helexis in a deal worth up to $105 million. The acquisition added the Eco Real Time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) genetic analysis system to the company's lineup of sequencing applications. Illumina followed that with Epicentre Biotechnologies in early 2011, adding the Nextera line of nucleic acid sample preparation reagents and enzymes used in sequencing and microarrays. In 2012 Illumina also purchased UK-based BlueGnome to expand its reproductive health screening offerings. – less