Local DNA sequencing giant Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) has teamed up with Chinese biotech company HaploX to build and launch the first NextSeq 2000Dx-CN-HAP, a benchtop genetic sequencing system that will be produced in the southeastern metropolis of Shenzen. Both companies plan to focus the future on the local manufacturing of biotech instruments to expand and propel China’s science and medical innovation efforts while taking advantage of the booming Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area.
HaploX is a leading genetic testing solutions provider in China that targets gene sequencing, liquid biopsies, bioinformatics and big data analytics. According to Illumina, its labs in Shenzen are certified by the best practice guidelines for genetic testing labs in the U.S., EU and China.
China’s Burgeoning Greater Bay Area
“Shenzhen is renowned as the ‘City of Dreams’ in China, and we are thrilled to witness the official launch of the new domestically produced flagship benchtop sequencing system here with HaploX,” said Max Ma, Sales Vice President and Interim Head of Region for Greater China, Illumina. “This is another important milestone for Illumina’s localization in China, but also signifies a new chapter ahead in our collaboration with HaploX. In the future, we will cooperate closely with HaploX to continuously explore innovation in business models, empower the local ecosystem, and jointly serve the rapid development of scientific research and clinical fields in China.”
In a report released by the Hong Kong government, the 21,622 square-mile Greater Bay Area plans to become an international science and tech powerhouse by 2035. With a population of nearly 87 million, the explosive megaregion is considered one of the most open and economically vibrant parts of China, with the Greater Bay Area playing a significant, strategic role in the overall development of the country. According to the “Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area,” ever since the reform and opening up of China – including the return of Hong Kong and Macao – cooperation among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao has continued to deepen in strength and regional competitiveness, poised to develop into a global first-class bay area and a world-class city cluster.
In recent years, global corporations have adopted a so-called “local for local” strategy, moving production facilities and administrative teams closer to core markets to secure shore lead times. In 2022, Illumina announced it was opening its first manufacturing site in Shanghai to meet the region’s growing demand.
“Illumina has been delivering sequencers and consumables produced out of its manufacturing site in Shanghai since August 2023. This is part of the company’s ‘local for local’ strategy to enhance capacity in China,” David McAlpine, Global Head of External Communications at Illumina told the Business Journal.
Continued Domination Amid Setbacks
With a net worth of more than $22 billion, sequencing giant Illumina continues to dominate the market, despite a year of complications – including summertime layoffs – as part of a plan to slash operational expenses by $100 million.
In December, the company announced it would divest itself of the controversial spin-out liquid biopsy blood test maker, GRAIL. In October, the European Commission ordered Illumina to unwind its already completed acquisition of GRAIL, after antitrust officials criticized the deal over fears that it may stifle innovation and limit competition.
“We are committed to an expeditious divestiture of GRAIL in a manner that allows its technology to continue benefitting patients,” said Dr. Jacob Thaysen, PhD, who assumed the role of CEO in late September. “The management team and I continue to focus on our core business and supporting our customers. I am confident in Illumina’s opportunities and our long-term success.”
According to a November SEC filing, the company reported in June 2023 that it incurred $54 million in charges after revealing that it planned to shed its i3 campus in UTC to cut $100 million in yearly expenses.
Illumina declined to provide further comment on the GRAIL divestiture or the i3 campus report.
Amid the series of setbacks, the company is still showing positive movement with its Chinese market growth and other global expansion efforts. In November, Illumina announced it was launching a Global Health Access Initiative to help low- and middle-income countries have greater access to pathogen sequencing tools for public health.
In early September, the company reported it was expanding its genomics capabilities in India, with the opening of a new office and state-of-the-art Illumina Solutions Center in Bengaluru (Bangalore), located in the country’s southern state of Karnataka.
CEO: Dr. Jacob Thaysen, PhD
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: DNA sequencing
STOCK: ILMN (NASDAQ)
ENTERPRISE VALUE: $23.19B
NOTABLE: Illumina is the world’s leading genomics sequencing company.