DNA analytics company Illumina announced today that it has acquired BlueGnome, a diagnostics company based in Cambridge, U.K., that specializes in chromosomal screening for reproductive health and cancer. The news comes after a flurry of announcements from Illumina in the last two weeks, many of which emphasize the company's expansion from the world of basic research into medicine.
"We've been moving very deliberately toward diagnostics," says Illumina CEO Jay Flatley, who adds that the acquisition will allow the company to combine its existing expertise in research with the clinical evaluation of patients. The two major areas of focus for Illumina's diagnostic work are oncology and reproductive health, he says.
Today, doctors performing in vitro fertilization use various techniques to check embryos for genetic problems, such as mistakes in chromosome number, before they are transferred to the uterus. A single cell is removed from each IVF-produced embryo and tested so that only the embryos with the greatest chance of leading to a successful pregnancy are used. An abnormal numbers of chromosomes, known as aneuploidy, is thought to be a cause of miscarriage and failed IVF implantation. It is also linked to developmental problems.