According to Illumina (ILMN), 1-Hour Genome Sequencing for Just $100 is on its Way

Illumina Inc (NASDAQ:ILMN) is exploding in pre-market trading today, currently up 14.8 percent – and hovering around $162.50. After the market close yesterday, the DNA sequencing company made a potentially historic announcement: its powerful new line of machines can sequence a human genome in just one hour.

The new product line is called NovaSeq, and the new architecture could shrink the cost of decoding a human genome from $1,000 to just $100. Illumina says, however, that such a cheap price point is years away. Specifically, the company’s Chief Executive Officer projects $100 screenings in between three and ten years.

The two new machines from the NovaSeq series are the NovaSeq 5000 and the NovaSeq 6000, and they are estimated – by George Church, Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics – to be roughly 70 percent faster than modern sequencing machines. In the constantly evolving field of genetics, 70 percent isn’t a huge boost – but Illumina has promised quick progress as new machine parts and software upgrades speed up the equipment’s capabilities. At the end of the year, the sequencer could be as much as six times faster.

Ten years ago, Illumina’s first sequencing machine could complete a human genome for the mere cost of $300,000. While the cost has diminished substantially, the machines themselves are still quite expensive. The NovaSeq5000 will run you $850,000 and the NovaSeq 6000 has a whopping $985,000 price tag.

Moreover, the new machines have a few nice surprises when compared to Illumina’s current top-line sequencers – the X5 and X10. For one, the newest launches are sold separately, while the X5 and X10 are only sold in bundles. Second, the new machines don’t have any pre-determined limitations on what kind of research they can be used for. Currently, Illumina only lets buyers use the X5 and X10 for examining known genes (“exomes”).

The newest sequencers are also reportedly easier for customers to use, with the number of steps in the analysis process dropped from 38 to just eight. Also, RFID microchips have been included to ensure the sequencer’s parts are properly loaded by researchers. While the NovaSeq 5000 and 6000 us the same essential chemistry as the earlier machines, the latest series is a result of 17 major innovations across every piece of the previous sequencers.

The company also announced yesterday, at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, that it is launching its Single-Cell Sequencing Solution – a collaborative effort with Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc (NYSE:BIO). The new solution allows researchers to explore the coordinated contribution of individual cells in tissue function, disease progression and treatment response. Single-cell analysis facilitates a deep look into the gene expression of a cell to see what function they provide in their complex tissues.

“By offering cell biologists access to technologies that make single-cell analysis cost effective and easy to adopt, we hope to enable scientists to advance complex disease research using gene expression insights,” said Rob Brainin, Vice President and General Manager, Applied Genomics at Illumina. “Our collaboration with Bio-Rad has allowed us to bring this technology to market quickly and empower our customers to unlock the power of the genome to improve human health.”

The author has no positions in the above mentioned companies.

Tim is a contributing analyst for and specializes in equities trading and public offerings. He is a graduate of UCLA and began his career doing capital markets research for a top investment banking software provider.