IN 2013 MEREDITH HALKS MILLERWhile examining the blood of expectant mothers, the laboratory director at Illumina, the world’s largest gene sequencing firm, he noticed something strange while investigating whether there were any abnormalities in the fetuses they were carrying. In some cases, DNA unborn children were normal, but mothers were not. Suspecting the women’s cancer, he went on top of them, but was met with skepticism. Still pushed. “I was determined to bring this to light. As a doctor, I really wanted to help these women,” she says. Her intuition was right. “Of course, every person I guessed had cancer had cancer.”
his premonition STAMP, a pioneering company focused on detecting cancers using blood tests, even before any symptoms appear. Illumina launched in 2016 (tech giants like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates were early backers), but soon bought it back in a $7 billion deal last month. STAMP He published a test in America that screens for up to 50 cancers from a blood sample. Yet until a recent blog post by her daughter stating how rarely female scientists are praised for their work, Dr. STAMP‘s story. When contacting your columnist, he says he didn’t get any extra bonuses or promotions for his efforts. Even today, Francis deSouza, Illumina’s CEO, refers to her simply as Meredith, and when asked about her she simply says she’s retired.
However, his brain is now firmly in the spotlight. STAMPThe return of Illumina is intriguing for three reasons. First described as the “Google of genomic science” by its biggest investor, Scottish asset manager Baillie Gifford, Illumina hopes to become one of the giants in cancer treatment by acquiring it. In short, it wants to run a new scan scan. Second, like Google, Illumina faces a showdown with trust hunters in America and Europe, and is uneasy about how similar early-stage acquisitions have spawned today’s tech giants. Third, Illumina defiantly moved forward with the transaction before regulators gave it the green light. The war pits a company on the technological frontier against trust busters eager to rewrite the rules of tech competition.
There is no doubt that Illumina, worth $73 billion, rules the world of gene sequencing. Their machines control 90% of the market in America. Its large global share is reflected in the fact that Chinese scientists used it for the first sequencing. SARS–NSHEV-2 genome at the start of the covid-19 pandemic. It provides gene sequencing tools to genomics companies, including those developing liquid biopsies or blood tests for cancer, using technology acquired through the 2007 acquisition of British company Solexa. Mr. deSouza thinks the global market for cancer gene sequencing could be worth $75 billion by 2035. This looks promising for a gene sequencing provider. even more if STAMP can change the efficacy and economics of cancer treatment. Mr deSouza argues that Illumina’s global weight and ability to persuade insurers to cover the cost of genomic testing will help. STAMP do this. Far from suffocating competition, the takeover will spur it, he says. Money flows to startups trying to catch up STAMP.
Confidence hunters see things differently. Last year the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), America’s antitrust agency prevented Illumina from acquiring another sequencer, Pacific Biosciences, on the grounds that it would be anticompetitive. Now FTC Says Illumina has taken over STAMP It will undermine innovation in the nascent market for early detection of cancer. European Commission (HORSE) launched a parallel investigation, claiming that Illumina could restrict it. STAMPCompetitors’ access to gene sequencing technology. On August 18, Illumina challenged the Europeans, because a HORSE the decision was not expected until the deal expired, he would still complete the transaction – although he held STAMP separately. defiant HORSE in a Luxembourg court, ME‘s executive branch has no jurisdiction over the merger. Moreover, the commission challenged the agreement using an untested and controversial mechanism called Article 22. Illumina’s strategy is bold – some would say reckless. The share price has plummeted since the deal closed, in part because investors feared it could set a regulatory hornet’s nest in motion.
Antitrust concerns can be viewed as narrow or broad. From a narrow perspective, Illumina’s customers hoping to compete with their competitors STAMP In testing, one might worry that Illumina will charge them higher prices for sequencers. This can give STAMP, an advantage if it has lower sequencing costs. Illumina says it has no incentive to harm its customers, as it makes more money by selling sequencers than by selling tests. It also committed to providing them with sequencers. STAMP. More generally, even as Illumina continues to drive down the cost of gene sequencing, regulators’ focus on non-cost factors such as innovation may reflect a new antitrust approach that goes beyond the task of protecting consumers’ wallets. In the event of bad timing or bad luck, Illumina threw the gauntlet at the trustees as they were determined to show they wouldn’t be the doormat. The courts will decide the outcome.
stick to your guns
Regulators are not the only parties involved. According to Doug Schenkel of Cowen, an investment bank, some Illumina shareholders STAMP The implication that there may be increased risk to the company’s position as an “arms dealer” for the acquisition and genomics industry is putting pressure on stocks. So are the concerns about whether Illumina is the best option to bring in. STAMPblood-based diagnostics to market. Some fear this may be the latest example of a hardware company blocking the transition to software and services. It’s a long-term bet, however, and Dr Halks Miller is excited for one. Says STAMP‘s new test is “incredibly powerful”. She enjoys her success and has no regrets – even if she receives very few of her rewards. ■
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This article was published under the heading “Illumina and the holy grail” in the Business section of the print publication.