Illumina Inc. ( ILMN ), a major developer of life science tools for large-scale genetic analysis, has recently formed alliances with three leading pharmaceutical companies. This step is in line with the company's expansion strategy for the enhancement of its portfolio of sequencing products through strategic partnerships with therapeutics and diagnostic services providers.
The collaborations with AstraZeneca PLC ( AZN ), Janssen Biotech, Inc., and Sanofi ( SNY ) are expected to develop a complete next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based oncology test system which will be a transition from single-analyte companion diagnostics to panel-based assays for "companion therapeutics" - a new era for oncology.
According to Illumina, together with its strategic partners, it will form a system for clinical trial which will help in providing a multi-gene panel for therapeutic selection of targeted cancer therapies. The company believes this to eventually result in a more comprehensive tool for precision medicine. Currently, Illumina is working for regulatory agency approvals and test commercialization. In addition, it is also setting standards for NGS-based assays in routine clinical oncology practice and defined regulatory frameworks suitable for this new system.
Current medical data depicts the necessity of this new system. To date, 125 known cancer driver genes have been discovered with 71 tumor suppressors and 54 oncogenes. However, there is only a limited number of available targeted therapies with 800 oncology drugs in development (designed to target specific mutations). Accordingly, with the increased development of new therapies, there is growing need for new companion diagnostic tests.
We strongly believe such strategic partnerships will act as a major breakthrough in establishing Illumina as a forerunner in NGS system worldwide. Last February, Illumina Genome Network (IGN) formed an alliance with Sweden-based Science for Life Laboratory to provide researchers with broader access to Illumina's whole genome sequencing technology. According to Illumina, this deal will be helpful in speeding up genetic discovery and establishing a map of genetic variability in Sweden.
Prior to that, in Jan 2014, Illumina signed an agreement with Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings ( LH ) whereby the latter gained expanded rights to use Illumina's NGS platform and microarray equipment and supplies to develop and market laboratory-developed tests. In the same month, Illumina inked a deal with Amgen to develop and market a multigene NGS-based test to be used as a companion diagnostic for Amgen's cancer treatment, Vectibix. In January itself, Illumina also entered into a strategic partnership with Quest Diagnostics allowing the latter to use its MiseqDX platform and related reagents for molecular laboratory-developed tests. Illumina also has plans to launch MiSeq Forensic Genomics System (MiSeq FGx), technologically advanced software in the first half of 2014.
Illumina currently holds a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.