Illumina Forms New Bay Area Firm Helix With $100 Million

Published: Aug 20, 2015

Illumina Forms New Bay Area Firm Helix With $100 Million
August 18, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

San Francisco, Calif.-based Illumina , joined Warburg Pincus and Sutter Hill Ventures in announcing today that they are forming a consumer genomics company called Helix. Investors ponied up more than $100 million to start the company, with Jay Flatley, chief executive officer of Illumina, to serve as board chairman.

The new company will offer affordable genomic sequencing and database service for samples provided through third-party partners. Customers will have access to their own data and be able to utilize a variety of yet-to-be-created consumer applications.

“Genomics is reaching an inflection point in cost, volumes, and knowledge, creating a significant opportunity to unlock information that is currently not widely accessible to individuals,” said Flatley in a statement. “Helix and its founding investors are committed to creating a neutral platform at the highest quality standard that will work with partners to accelerate consumer adoption of genomics.”

Illumina and Helix is joining what is starting to look like a burgeoning area of consumer genetics. In July, Google/Alphabet company, Calico Life Sciences, announced a partnership with Provo, Utah-based AncestryDNA to analyze and investigate genetics and longevity using Ancestry’s proprietary databases, tools and algorithms. AncestryDNA, a division of Ancestry.com, sells DNA kits for $99 that help individuals map their family history, which as a result, created a database of a million separate genetic samples that could be anonymized for research.

In January 2015, Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe announced it had inked a deal with Pfizer Inc. , which will give Pfizer access to 23andMe’s research platform, which will include Research Portal analysis of 23andMe’s 800,000 genotyped individuals. 23andMe started out marketing a saliva-based direct-to-consumer personal genome test. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced the company to pull it from the market because it was being advertised as a medical device, which required FDA approval the company did not have. The kits are still marketed, but health-related reports are no longer provided.

Around the same time, in early January, 23andMe teamed up with Genentech to work on identifying new treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Genentech was paying 23andMe $10 million upfront and up to $50 million in milestone payments.

Already Helix has developed two major collaboration partners, the Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp , currently the largest clinical diagnostic laboratory company in the U.S. Mayo will assist in developing applications focused on consumer education and health-related questions. They also invested in Helix. LabCorp will work on developing and marketing analysis and interpretation services, with an early focus on “medically actionable genetic conditions.”

Illumina is a leader in the development and marketing of next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms and microarrays. has been down lately, although still strong. Shares traded on Oct. 14, 2014 for $149.12, rose to $192.58 on Oct. 31, and $203.25 on Jan. 27, 2015. Share prices spiked to $240.02 on July 20, but have since dropped to $207.91 currently.

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