Illumina Partners with Sequoia Capital for its 3rd Life Science Incubator, This One in China


Illumina, the world’s leading DNA sequencing and array-based technologies company, is partnering with Sequoia Capital China, an investment firm, to launch a life sciences incubator in China. It is dubbed the Sequoia Capital China Intelligent Healthcare Genomics Incubator, Powered by Illumina. The focus will be on building life science startups specializing in genomics.

Illumina has accelerators in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Cambridge, UK, and the China-based accelerator hopes to duplicate their success. Illumina will provide its scientific expertise while Sequoia will provide investment expertise and access to entrepreneurs.

In April 2020, Sequoia Capital launched the Sequoia Digital Intelligent Industry Incubation Center in Shanghai Zhangjiang Artificial Intelligence Island. That incubator’s goal is to build a Sequoia digital intelligence ecosystem and provide support for digital intelligence startups in the area of enterprise development, resource links, and industrial collaboration. As the Island’s name suggests, this was a focus of tech and artificial intelligence companies, so much so that Microsoft set up its largest laboratory there, 2,800 square meters.

The new incubator will have two funding cycles per year, each six months long. It will offer chosen startups with access to investment and business guidance from Sequoia Capital China, and access to Illumina’s sequencing systems, reagents and genomics expertise. All will be in a fully operational laboratory space in Shanghai, China. The first funding cycle will start in the Fall of 2021. Applications for the inaugural funding cycle are open until June 1, 2021. Here’s the link.

The incubator offers a minimum $500,000 upfront investment and business guidance from Sequoia Capital China, a minimum of $100,000 prioritizing investments from Sequoia Capital China in the next series of financing, Illumina sequencing systems, reagents and expertise from Genomics, and fully operational lab space in an independent facility. Participating startups must locate at the genomics incubator facility in Shanghai, China during the six-month cycle. Startups can maintain a second operational site, but at least two co-founders must be full-time, onsite during the six-month funding cycle.

“Illumina has a successful track record of creating venture-backed genomics startup companies through Illumina Accelerator in the U.S. and UK,” said Francis deSouza, Illumina’s chief executive officer. “Together with Sequoia Capital China, we will now partner with leading entrepreneurs in China to build genomics startup companies that unlock powerful breakthrough genomics applications and clinical sequencing solutions that harness the unique strengths and dynamic markets in China.”

The next funding cycle for Illumina’s other accelerators in San Francisco and the UK is due March 1, 2021. Companies that have been active in those accelerators include Algen Biotechnologies, Avail Bio, Cognitive Genetics, Encoded Therapeutics, Naked Biome, NextGen Jane, TrueGenomix and a number of others. Avail Bio, for example, combines genomics, biotechnology and data science to focus on next-generation precision therapies. NextGen Jane is focused on women’s health with the development of its Smart Tampon platform and TrueGenomix is developing genomic approaches to diagnosing and treating behavioral health disorders.

“As a key driver fueling and accelerating innovations and entrepreneurship, we are committed to taking the initiative in incubating startups and enabling innovators to access global resources, ultimately transforming advanced technologies into products and services of essential value,” said Neil Shen, Steward of Sequoia Capital, founding and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China. “Together with Illumina, we aim to build a genomics innovation platform to discover and nurture founders in the field of genomics in China. We also look forward to working together with many more leading healthcare companies to jointly promote the development of human wellbeing.”

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