Genomics Leader Illumina Revs Its Company Creation Engine

Illumina has selected nine new genomics companies to join the second global funding cycle of Illumina Accelerator in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Amanda Pedersen

February 8, 2021

4 Min Read
Image by Viacheslav Iakobchuk - Adobe Stock

Unlocking the power of the human genome is a feat that no one organization can fully accomplish on its own. That's why, back in 2014, Illumina created the world’s first business accelerator focused solely on creating an innovation ecosystem for the genomics industry.

Now in its sixth year, the Illumina Accelerator has just selected nine new genomics companies to join its latest funding cycle — four companies for the accelerator's Cambridge, England location, and five companies for the San Francisco Bay Area location. The Illumina Accelerator has helped create a total of 54 genomics companies including the nine that were just announced.

"Those teams are all working on building breakthrough applications of our technology. They are all primarily upstream and downstream of Illumina's core DNA sequencing technology," Amanda Cashin, PhD, co-founder and global head of Illumina for Startups, told MD+DI. "We're not trying to acquire these companies at all, we're really trying to expand the opportunities and help build companies that will be big impactful companies going forward."

During two, six-month funding cycles per year, Illumina Accelerator provides the selected startups with access to seed investment, access to Illumina sequencing systems and reagents, as well as business guidance, genomics expertise, and fully operational lab space adjacent to Illumina’s campuses in Cambridge or the San Francisco Bay Area.

Cashin said Illumina takes an equity stake in the companies that are selected into the accelerator program to make sure that Illumina is aligned with the accelerator teams and incentivized by the potential financial return of the participating companies.

"About half the portfolio is developing breakthrough applications in therapeutics and so that's using genomics or multiomics to really drive the future era of drug discovery and development," Cashin said.

These applications will ultimately help doctors identify the right therapeutic for individual patients, and will help drug development companies identify the right patients for clinical trials. Cashin said Illumina sees a lot of promise in taking a genomics or multiomics-driven approach toward drug discovery. She said these developments will help drive the utility and actionability of the genome.

When it comes to selecting companies to participate in the accelerator program, Cashin said Illumina places a lot of emphasis on the quality of the team dynamic. She said the company is comfortable backing teams with seasoned experience in the industry as well as teams that are new to the industry, as long as they are "backable teams."

"What we look for is team dynamic. Are they credible? Are they coachable? How do they interact with each other? Those are the kind of things that sometimes you just kind of get by instinct, or by experience, or sometimes you just get by understanding the space," she said. "So we try to be very in tune to serve the team and team dynamic of our selected companies."

Illumina also reported on Monday that more than £20 million in initial UK capital commitments have been secured from a select group of investors, including a £10 million commitment from cornerstone investor LifeArc, a leading UK independent medical research charity. The UK commitments will provide pound-for-pound match funding to every Illumina Accelerator Cambridge graduate that secures between £500,000 up to £4 million in qualified new capital, within one year of graduation.

Meet the newest class of Illumina Accelerator genomics startups

Illumina Accelerator Cambridge

  • BiotaX Labs, a spinoff from Technion Research and Development Foundation Israel, is harnessing the power of the microbiome to diagnose and provide effective, tailored and safe microbial treatments.

  • Broken String Biosciences, a genomics company based in Cardiff, Wales, is developing a platform of sequencing tools to assess genome stability and to unlock the next generation of innovative medicines, including cell and gene therapies.

  • Mitra Bio, a skin longevity company based in London, England, is building a non-invasive skin multi-omics platform to unravel skin health and delay ageing.

  • MultiplAI Health, a diagnostics company in London, England and Buenos Aires, Argentina, is leveraging advances in genomics and artificial intelligence to develop universal remote screening for cardiovascular diseases.

Illumina Accelerator SF Bay Area

  • Doloromics, a pain therapeutics discovery company based in Dallas, TX, is building a platform for discovery of disease-specific pain mechanisms, biomarkers and therapeutics.

  • Flightpath Biosciences, a biotech company based in Berkeley, CA is advancing microbiome-targeted therapeutics and diagnostics for the treatment of rare infectious diseases.

  • Oshun Medical, a women’s health diagnostics company based in San Francisco, CA, is working to predict pregnancy complications in women around the world.

  • Parallel Health, a skin microbiome company in San Francisco, CA, aims to revolutionize skin and body care by providing deep insights and true personalization through testing and targeted microbial formulations.

  • Rubik Therapeutics, a cancer therapeutics company based in Cambridge, MA, is leveraging computational biology and genome-wide screens to develop engineered cell therapies for solid tumor indications.

Illumina Accelerator is accepting applications for its next global funding cycle until March 1. Through a single, global application process, Illumina Accelerator will select up to five companies in each location. Prospective applicants are encouraged to click here for more information.

Investing in Chinese genomics startups

Illumina recently announced a collaboration with Sequoia Capital China to launch a new genomics incubator in China. The inaugural funding cycle of the genomics incubator will begin in Fall 2021. Applications for the inaugural funding cycle of the new incubator is open until June 1. To learn more, visit the application website.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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