For Francis deSouza, the CEO of DNA sequencer manufacturer Illumina, the hardest moments of the Covid-19 pandemic are still fresh. He has, he says, been talking to his aunt, who is in her 90s and lives in a village in Goa, India, who is afraid to leave her home.
“She’s confused, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so it’s heartbreaking to watch her go through this and be unable to help from so far away,” deSouza said last week at the STAT Health Tech Summit. “And that story has played out so many times over the last year.”
But the best moment is also fresh: deSouza, 50, said he got goosebumps when he saw videos of trucks filled with mRNA vaccine on the move. Illumina’s technology was used to decipher the genetic code that went into developing these vaccines. The company’s DNA sequencing technology is also being used to track variants of the SAR-CoV-2 virus.
There are several other companies successful with liquid biopsies and Next-Generation Sequencing. In the past 6-9 months the FDA approved tests developed by Guardant Health (GH), NeoGenomics (NEO) and Foundation One (priv). There will be many more. Illumina deserves credit for SARS-CoV-2 sequencing, and continued work on variants – but it does have competition even if it gets Grail back under its wings.
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