Illumina takes on BGI in battle for Chinese NIPT market

23 July 2014

Super-sequencing giant Illumina hopes to lock horns with Chinese rival BGI over the potentially highly lucrative internal market for non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT).

BGI has already received approval from the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) for clinical applications using the BGISEQ-1000 and BGISEQ-100 DNA sequencers and for selected related NIPT applications. It was the first approval since the Chinese authorities temporarily suspended all medical applications of genetic sequencing earlier this year.

Now Illumina has partnered with the Chinese firm Berry Genomics in a clinical sequencing system based on Illumina’s NextSeq-500 system and the linked Bambni non-invasive prenatal test, for both of which Berry is to seek approval from the CFDA.

Notably, the press release estimates the Chinese market for high-risk and advanced maternal age pregnancies (ie. those at high risk based on maternal age or other factors, for which NIPT is particularly compelling) as about two million per year – three times the US market size – so this is a target market worth fighting for. Overall, there are around 17 million pregnancies in China each year.

Berry Genomics’ founder and CEO Zhou has previously said that he hopes to be able to use the technologies for detection of ‘almost all of the genetic defects’.

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