San Diego-based company defines what it means to be a “disruptor”

May 1, 2015 Erin Righetti

Earth in a  meteor showerYou hear a lot these days about “disruptive technology” and “transformative science.” It’s a label many companies strive to achieve, but what does it look like in practice?

San Diego based genome sequencing company Illumina is a good example of a “disruptive” biotech company. They develop next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies and microarrays solutions across a broad spectrum of applications including oncology, reproductive health, complex disease genomics, and more. But it’s Illumina’s technology in combination with a nimble strategy that makes them a “disruptor.”

Luke Timmerman interviewed Illumina CEO Jay Flatley in a Forbes article dated April 29, 2015. In the article, Timmerman said that “scientists, diagnostics makers, physicians, and Wall Street look at the company with a mix of fear and awe” primarily because of Illumina’s technology which enables researchers to perform genome sequencing en masse and at lightning speed. Their technology has had a transformative effect on disease research by propelling the pace of genetic disease testing and analysis beyond what anyone predicted was possible just a few years ago. And the market for their genome sequencing equipment seems limitless.

Illumina’s CEO Jay Flatley stated in the Forbes article that “the total addressable market we talked about 15 months ago in our analyst day was $20 billion. If you were to ask us what we think it is today, it’s substantially bigger.” This is apparent, as ambitious sequencing projects in oncology and rare disease ramp up across the globe.

To understand their success, you have to consider Illumina’s strategy, and how they were able to develop their company to be able to grow to meet incredible market demand without losing their specific market share or technological expertise. According to Flatley, the number one consideration is to make sure they stay focused on the technology. “We think it’s very important that the people who lead our company, which you might think of as my top 20 to 50 executives, have technology backgrounds.”

In a separate April 21, 2015 Wired interview with Tina Nova, senior vice president and general manager of Illumina’s oncology business, Nova points to forward-thinking strategies as the key to their continued success. “We’re also working on building databases that will show which cancer drugs work most effectively with which cancers at a genetic level. We’re moving forward with this research at an exciting pace; in the next five to ten years, it’s going to make a tremendous difference in how we practice medicine,” said Nova.

Not only that, but Illumina considers themselves a full partner, and contributes out of the box thinking to their client relationships. “You can’t just make products in isolation,” said Nova. “It’s not just about putting new science out into the world. It’s also thinking about who’s going to use it, how are they going to use it, how does it help patients, and will I be paid for it?”

Illumina is a disruptor and a change-agent in a market that can be slow to change. Their innovative solutions platform and adherence to keeping their technology on the cutting edge of innovation, combined with laser-vision focus on full-spectrum needs involving physicians, clinicians and patients, are the reasons they can predict off-the-charts growth over the next decade.

Meet other industry disruptors among the life sciences ecosystem at BioPharm America™ 2015 in Boston this September.


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