Illumina: Innovation through Ingenuity

The human body is an incredibly complex and amazing entity. No two people are exactly alike because no two people have identical DNA. DNA is the building block for humans, and something seemingly so simple as a double helix has the ability to control all of our genetic programming. Recently technology has helped us begin to unlock the secrets DNA has encoded, and our ability to understand the human genome has greatly expanded. The company at the forefront of this life sciences industry is Illumina. 

Illumina is committed to unlocking the human genome to transform healthcare and beyond. “This field as dramatic growth potential and the ability to transform people’s lives. Currently, Illumina develops, manufactures and markets life science tools and integrated systems for the analysis of genetic variation and function. It provides a comprehensive line of genetic analysis solutions with products and services that serve a broad range of highly interconnected markets, including sequencing, genotyping, gene expression and molecular diagnostics.” ( Operating in two segments, Life Sciences and Diagnostics, Illumina is able to provide products and services for the research market and research in the molecular diagnostics field. Their ability to develop, manufacture and sell integrated systems for the analysis of genetic variation and biological function is making a difference in human health.

A global leader in genomics, Illumina says on their website they are at the intersection of biology and technology. Their simple description for what they do is “At the most fundamental  level, we enable our customers to read and understand genetic variations. We strive to make our solutions increasingly simple, more accessible, and always reliable.” ( They are a forward looking company, and will help medicine to become increasingly preventative and more precise. Humans will be healthier and live longer.

Illumina is a rare company clearly doing good for society and generating value for shareholders. This combination makes them a company I admire and I am excited to see what the future holds for them.


5 thoughts on “Illumina: Innovation through Ingenuity”

  1. While I believe that genetic research can lead to some wonderful discoveries particularly in diagnostic medicine, the discussion of genetics sometimes gets colored by the worlds depicted in science fiction books, comics, and movies. Some people worry that people will take genetic engineering too far. Are there any potential consequences to Illumina’s development and distribution of genetic research tools?


  2. What would be the ethical implications of having a world of people with perfect genetics? In the movie Gattaca, potential children are conceived through genetic manipulation to ensure they possess the best hereditary traits of their parents. The movie explores the ethical concerns that people have with sequencing genes. Assuming that the technology is highly regulated and used in only specific cases (Huntington’s disease, trisomy, etc.) then I don’t have a problem with it. What do you think?

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  3. Also, you mentioned that they are good to their shareholders (issuing dividends, buying back shares, etc. come to mind). Do you think a company like Illumina should be so concerned with generating shareholder wealth that they miss out on potential R&D opportunities in the space?


  4. You might want to look at the recent history of the race to sequence the human genome. There was a private group and a public one. There was some news coverage and maybe a book about it. That would nicely capture the differences between the two approaches. One is based on IP protection of information, the other, the public, is based on “open source” for the genome and innovation would come through what is done with the information.

    The ethics of information, of genomic information, could be a good approach.


  5. I already talked about policy angles for you.

    On the ethical side, for Illumina, I would think one approach might be consequentialism. I would need to know more about their products or services. My thinking is this: who is buying their ability to analyze genetic variation? If it is health systems to provide better health care great! What if it is an employer to figure out who is going to be high cost in terms of health care and hence not hire them? Are the people whose variation is being analyzed by Illumina free to opt out?

    More broadly, misunderstood or false positives can have very negative effects. My own wife is a breast cancer survivor, and I can tell you that even thought there is an impulse to do every kind of test or procedure, doing a test that can produce a lot of false positives, like, you may have breast cancer but now we have to do a biopsy, is not a zero cost experience. There is the stress and anguish of the information. And then there is the cost or side effects of unnecessary treatments.

    If Illumina is trying to be ethical, I would think they have thought through these issues very carefully and more thoroughly than I can here.


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