England Asks Illumina to Map 100,000 Genomes

Illumina Inc., the biggest maker of DNA decoders, has been chosen by the U.K. government to sequence 100,000 human genomes for a project focusing on cancer, and rare and infectious diseases.

The U.K. Department of Health announced the launch of the program, Genomics England, last year. The agency selected the company’s subsidiary, Illumina Cambridge Ltd., as the “preferred partner” for the sequencing part of the project, according to a company filing July 9.

“The parties intend to work quickly towards a definitive agreement,” San Diego, California-based Illumina said in the statement. Eric Endicott, an Illumina spokesman, declined to comment further on the deal.

The U.K. project is currently in its pilot phase and will be completed by the end of 2017.

In 14 years, the company has driven the price of sequencing a human genome to $1,000 from $3 billion, said Francis deSouza, president of Illumina, at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Technology Conference on July 3. The Human Genome Project in the U.S. was completed in 2003 at a cost of almost $3 billion.

The company’s revenue last year grew 24 percent to $1.42 billion, and its share price has more than doubled in the past 12 months.

Genomics England said one in 17 people are born with or will develop a rare disease in their lifetime, with 80 percent of rare diseases having an identified genetic component. By sequencing 100,000 genomes, the project’s other aims are to kickstart the development of a U.K. genomics industry and introduce the technology into its mainstream health system, according to the Genomics England website.

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