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Why Shares of Illumina Rose 15.3% in January

By Billy Duberstein - Feb 8, 2021 at 8:42AM

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The genomics leader got a boost from identifying new COVID variants, and won a patent lawsuit.

What happened

Shares of genomics leader Illumina (ILMN 0.08%) rose 15.3% in January, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Although the genomics leader didn't announce any financial updates during the month, it did win a patent lawsuit.

Furthermore, the identification of new COVID-19 variants overseas using genomics testing drew attention to the importance of genomics overall. The U.S. hadn't used genomics as much, so putting a spotlight on COVID-19 gene sequencing gave another boost to this industry leader.

A DNA strand illuminated.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

On Jan. 20, the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, in the U.K. ruled that BGI Genomics, a Hong Kong company, violated Illumina's patents on gene sequencing chemistry. This U.K. ruling followed other similar wins for Illumina at patent courts in the U.S., Germany, Spain, Finland, and Sweden. Other patent lawsuits against BGI are ongoing in Hong Kong, France, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Turkey, and Italy.

Aside from the positive patent ruling, the identification of new and more dangerous COVID-19 variants in the U.K. through the use of genomic testing shone a light on the benefits of genomics and its underutilization in the U.S. While the U.K. sequences about 10% of all COVID samples, which led the country to discover the more infectious strain, the U.S. had only sequenced about 0.3% of all COVID samples.

In response, President Biden advocated for more genomic surveillance of COVID strains in the U.S. in order to track outbreaks and new mutations, adding genomics funding to the proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

The prospect of more hospitals and research institutions using genomics to track COVID variants would likely mean a boost in revenue for Illumina, the leader in the space.

Now what

It was a great month for Illumina, but we are still very likely in the early innings of genomics testing for a wide range of applications, including cancer, COVID and other viruses, and pre-natal testing. Illumina's results dipped in 2020, as researchers stayed home and hospitals didn't do as much genetic testing other than for COVID, but they should rebound this year.

This leading biotech company is also looking forward to closing its $8 billion proposed acquisition of GRAIL, which uses genomics for liquid biopsies in cancer screening. Another update should be forthcoming on Feb. 11, when Illumina reports its fourth-quarter results.

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