The Illumina Campus in San Diego. Courtesy of the compnay

One of America’s most advanced manufacturers — San Diego genetic sequencing pioneer Illumina –opened its doors to the public on Friday to celebrate Manufacturing Day.

More than 140 visitors, from high school students to biotech professionals, toured manufacturing areas on the company’s six-building campus near the Westfield UTC shopping center.

The company was one of more than 50 locally that participated in the national day of recognition for American manufacturers. San Diego is home to some 4,000 manufacturing companies employing 107,000 people.

“San Diego’s manufacturing industry spans several sectors critical to our regional identity, from defense and aerospace to craft brewing and sports and active lifestyle,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

Illumina flow cell

Much of Illumina’s campus in San Diego is devoted to research and development, but it also makes kits for collecting and testing DNA samples. Its iconic desktop sequencers, which start at $50,000, are made in Northern California and overseas in Singapore.

Visitors on Friday saw white-coated workers and robotic equipment making flow cells for collecting DNA samples and synthesizing DNA for tests. Machines were named after rock and roll bands and characters in the movie “Top Gun.”

Not every medical researcher can afford a sequencer, so Illumnia also offers sequencing as a service. Its Illumina Clinical division operates three shifts, seven days a week, sequencing thousands of samples at a time.

“I’ve been here for 12 years,” Karine Viaud Martinez told a group of high school students. “It’s never been boring.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.