October 19, 2021 By Santosh Padmagirison 3 min read

Genomics, an industry at the intersection of biology and technology, delivers an array of scientific discoveries, insights and information—brightening prospects for new research, clinicians and consumers.

Genome sequencing, the foundation of these studies, requires the collection, processing and reconciliation of enormous amounts of data demanding vast amounts of computing power and human ingenuity. In this rapidly changing industry, anticipating the needs of genomics consumers such as clinics, hospitals, research labs, healthcare systems, academic institutions, government agencies, and pharmaceutical companies proves to be challenging, even for market leaders like Illumina.

The availability of, and access to, genomics research and insights has changed dramatically. New benefits have come to light from the depths of research institutions, housing talented scientific minds and advanced technology. The science of genomics fuels research efforts in cancer, micro, cellular, and molecular biology, agrigenomics, and complex diseases. In the clinical environment, genome-based studies support testing, diagnosis and treatment for reproductive health, genetic and rare diseases and oncology. The field of genomics is so vast in its coverage that it tackles everything from the common cold to the most arcane field topics, such as A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer!

Demand increases as genomic testing costs dramatically decrease

Over the course of its brief, two decades tenure, the cost of genomic testing has evolved. This previously cost-prohibitive testing is no longer restricted to research scientists, foundations and institutions willing to pay USD100,000 for access. Today, average consumers purchase DNA test kits for less than USD100 to discover their ancestry, genealogy, and health conditions related to their biological families. Discoveries that were unimaginable just a few years ago are becoming routine.

The rapid evolution of the industry has led to remarkable opportunities at Illumina. The startup, founded in 1998, is now a global leader in genomics. This international manufacturer of genomic sequencer and microarray technology and laboratory services provider operates across the globe. Our applied genomics technology company creates leading-edge technology to enable its clients—clinics, hospitals, research labs, healthcare systems, academic institutions, government agencies and pharmaceutical companies—to not only understand the genome but fully tap its power.

In my own words

Santosh Padmagirison, Sr. Director, Commercial Finance and Advanced Analytics,  Illumina

How do you predict trends in an ever-changing market?

Opportunity, however, often highlights challenges. Illumina’s offerings and growth are unlike most in the market. Our product and service portfolio serves clients globally. There are 17,000 Illumina sequencers installed worldwide. Our company continues to lead as we agilely adapt to the demands of the rapidly expanding industry and changing needs of current and future customer base. While genomics is highly dependent on data, industry trends and competitive information are not readily available. Preparing short-term and long-term sales forecasts and capacity plans that quickly adapt to our expanding markets increased in complexity.

Predictive analytics using artificial intelligence was the most logical solution for addressing our business needs. However, our leap to AI and machine learning wasn’t easy. We needed guidance and technology solutions that met our business needs. We wanted to prove out a solution well before we invested in it. We sought experts to start with a small proof of concept (POC) then iterate. A colleague recommended the IBM Data Science and AI Elite (DSE) Program.

A collaborative POC yields robust forecasting solutions

The engagement provided us with IBM data scientists and technology experts who collaborated with our team over six weeks at no charge. Collectively we identified Illumina’s sales forecasting priorities and developed a POC that included IBM Watson® Studio on IBM Cloud Pak® for Data. As we fine-tuned our customer segmentation, we discovered new insights to guide our future data strategy. With the help of the DSE team, the POC improved our shipment forecast accuracy.

After successfully demonstrating the value in this use case during the POC phase, we engaged IBM Consulting Services and its Advanced Analytics team that focuses on the Healthcare and Life Science industry. With our input, the IBM team developed AI/ML models that forecast global territories, improving accuracy, efficiency, and granularity across Illumina’s product portfolio. We provided data-driven insights into customer trends and a second data point for vetting revenue projections, demand planning, and annual budget planning. The team continues to work in a collaborative partnership with Illumina, dedicated to improving critical business processes through analytics enablement and leading-edge AI/ML capabilities.

This solid platform and practices that establish a trustworthy AI process provide Illumina with a foundation that lights the way for future forecasting.

Watson Studio is one of the many solution cartridges available on the IBM Cloud Pak for Data platform. Learn more about this trusted architecture for data and AI solutions.

Visit: https://www.ibm.com/products/cloud-pak-for-data

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