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I mentioned an initial stake in Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN) last Friday [Two New Positions in Healthcare Field], as I continue to expand to areas that should do well in a slowing economy. While I like healthcare, I hate risk associated with biotechs since FDA approval or non approval can push up (or down) a stock 40-50%. Since I have no advantage in information, these are tough stocks for me to get into. Hence I am always on the look out for ideas in this sector not tied to FDA approvals. Unlike MedcoHealth Solutions (NYSE:MHS) which should be a good recession play, Illumina has some of the very high growth component to it, that I really like. The main risk here is patent based risk...

A nice article here from a San Diego newspaper (where Illumina is based) which goes into more detail on what exactly they do: DNA Analysis Behind Illumina's Growth

  • When Illumina Inc. entered the local life sciences scene 10 years ago, the fledgling equipment provider had seven employees and 10,000 square feet of office space. Nearly a decade later, Illumina counts almost 1,000 employees worldwide with commercial operations in San Diego, Hayward, China, Japan, England and The Netherlands with plans to add 90,000 square feet of manufacturing, research and development and commercial space directly across from its UTC headquarters.
  • The company estimates it will reach a net income between $69 million and $71 million for the year on revenues between $354 million and $358 million. In 2006, the company reported a net income of $40 million on revenues of $185 million.
  • Its five-year growth spurt — 250 percent — was enough to earn the No. 1 spot on Forbes magazine’s 25 Fastest-Growing Tech Companies index published this year, a rate even surpassing Internet search engine phenomenon Google.
  • Illumina makes tools that allow commercial scientists, academic researchers and government agencies to study genetic variation. Besides differences in eye and hair color, genetic variation gives researchers clues to help them better understand complex diseases. Researchers have employed Illumina’s technology to discover significant genetic variations in adult-onset diabetes, Crohn’s and Parkinson’s diseases and prostate cancer.
  • Illumina has captured a piece of the analysis market by offering a technology that uses miniature beads and fiber optics to conduct large-scale experiments that allow researchers to analyze genetic makeup.
  • And its purchase of DNA-sequencing company Solexa for $600 million in January gave it access to a market worth an estimated $1 billion or more. It also created the only life sciences company with genome-wide technologies for genotyping, gene expression and sequencing, considered the three cornerstones of modern genetic analysis.
  • “This is, of course, like the darling of the research community because genetic sequencing is much quicker and less expensive,” said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and whose work on the genomics of coronary disease led to the discovery of the first coronary disease and heart attack mutation of its kind.
  • More recently, Illumina began partnering with Google and Genentech-financed 23andMe and Iceland’s deCode Genetics, services that allow a person a peek into their own genetic makeup for about $1,000.
  • As Illumina prepares to grow its capacity and expand its offerings, it also faces increased pressure from the competition. A jury awarded Santa Clara-based Affymetrix, a dominant player in the area of gene expression that also supplies chips to companies involved in genetic decoding, $16 million in March after it was successful in proving allegations Illumina had infringed on five patents.
  • “The real risk in the eyes of investors is that the jury does not rule in their favor and the judge issues an injunction against Illumina selling their products,” Schenkel said. “The belief is Illumina should hopefully be able to get a couple of these (patents) knocked out and that they will be successful in getting a re-examination with the (Patent and Trademark Office).”

Disclosure: Long Illumina in fund; no personal position

Source: Illumina Should Grow Despite Patent-Based Risk