Illumina acquires BlueBee, appoints new CTO

Illumina Australia Pty Ltd

Friday, 26 June, 2020

Illumina acquires BlueBee, appoints new CTO

Illumina, a global leader in genomics analysis, is looking to enhance its capabilities to analyse and interpret the data produced by its sequencing systems with the acquisition of BlueBee — a cloud-based software company that provides genomics analysis solutions for research and clinical customers.

Based in the Netherlands, BlueBee has developed a regulatory compliant, secure cloud platform that simplifies access to data and tools, enabling users to easily extract insights from genomic data. This cloud capability is expected to lower the cost of storing, sharing and managing the enormous volumes of genomic data that stream from Illumina’s installed base of more than 15,000 sequencing systems.

The integration of BlueBee’s capabilities into Illumina’s cloud portfolio will give users the flexibility to run their own custom analyses or access industry-leading options such as the DRAGEN Bio-IT Platform, streamlining data processing and increasing their operational efficiency. Users also will be able to aggregate, explore and collaborate on data and methods directly in the cloud through a user-friendly, ISO-compliant, flexible interface. BlueBee’s capabilities include intuitive analysis management (BlueFlow), multimodal data management (BlueBase) and data science and AI tools (BlueBench), as well as integrated business analytics and multi-cloud or on-premise deployment modes. This is a substantial addition to Illumina’s cloud software portfolio.

“We are thrilled to welcome the BlueBee team to Illumina, and excited by the promise of delivering a streamlined way for users to analyse, explore and securely manage large-scale genomics data,” said Susan Tousi, Senior Vice President of Product Development at Illumina. “Combining BlueBee and Illumina software products provides the most scalable, efficient and extensible genomic analysis solutions for both clinical and translational research use cases. BlueBee truly brings unique capabilities, while ensuring secure deployment of clinical informatics across the globe, and together we hope to deliver an unprecedented learning environment in order to unlock the full potential of genomic insights.”

“Together with Illumina we can create a sample to insight ecosystem for genomics while further expanding the utility of sequencing data,” added BlueBee CEO Hans Cobben. “Our team is encouraged at the prospect of joining Illumina where we believe we can merge high-power computing and advanced data science technologies to help propel genomics forward and deliver on its clinical promise.”

The news comes shortly after Illumina gained a new Chief Technology Officer, in the form of Dr Alex Aravanis. Appointed in early May but only officially joining the company this month, Dr Aravanis will be responsible for leading Illumina’s research and technology development functions and the innovation engine for next-generation sequencing platforms and applications, accelerating technology breakthroughs and translation to the clinic.

Dr Aravanis brings almost 20 years of experience in leading research and development efforts, spanning basic research and technology development through late-stage clinical development. He previously served in R&D for Illumina from 2013 to 2016, where he developed multiple technologies including clinical assays and bioinformatic pipelines for the analysis of RNA and DNA from fixed tissues, whole exome analysis, massively parallel single cell transcriptomics and liquid biopsy using cell-free nucleic acids.

He left Illumina to co-found cancer detection company GRAIL, where he has been serving as Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Research and Development. At GRAIL, he led the teams developing a multicancer early detection test by combining high-intensity sequencing approaches and the latest tools of data science and data engineering.

“I am humbled and excited to rejoin the Illumina team, especially at a time when unlocking the power of the genome has never been more important,” Dr Aravanis said. “I look forward to building on Illumina’s existing portfolio of leading products and expansive technology roadmap to further accelerate the impact of sequencing and transform human health through advancements in life science research and clinical applications.”

Outgoing Chief Technology Officer Mostafa Ronaghi, also a co-founder of GRAIL, has meanwhile taken on a new role as Illumina’s Senior Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development, responsible for supporting and catalysing the expanding genomics entrepreneurial ecosystem. In his new role, he will be connecting with the entrepreneurial community and early-stage companies around the world to accelerate breakthrough applications in genomics.

“We are thrilled to welcome Alex back to Illumina, now as our Chief Technology Officer, to ensure that Illumina will continue to deliver cutting-edge technology to support the ever-broader adoption and impact of genomics,” said Illumina CEO Francis deSouza. “In addition to his unique background and experience in sequencing technology, engineering and clinical applications, Alex knows Illumina well and is the right leader to build on Mostafa’s achievements and ensure our culture of innovation is protected as Illumina continues to grow.”

Image credit: © Nivens

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