With $600M in Funding, Ultima is Removing Cost Barriers to Genomic Research

How much could a human genome cost? The answer is $100, according to newly launched biotech company Ultima Genomics, which received $600 million in backing.

How much could a human genome cost? The answer is $100, according to newly unveiled biotech company Ultima Genomics.

Ultima launched on Tuesday with $600M in financing which could theoretically be used to buy six million of its $100 human genomes. The company was born to remove the traditionally costly price of genomic information that researchers and clinicians have been subject to and provide a solution to such financial barriers.

“Scientists and clinicians continuously make tradeoffs between the breadth, depth and frequency of genomic information they collect,” Doron Lipson, chief scientific officer of Ultima Genomics said in a press release. “By overcoming the limitations of conventional next-generation sequencing technologies, researchers can now design experiments and clinical assays that were previously impossible.”

Ultima has achieved this affordable human genome by utilizing several technological advances. The company uses an open substrate, which creates a low-cost reaction surface that delivers billions of genetic reads while avoiding costly flow cells and complicated fluidics. Ultima also boasts “novel scalable chemistry”, which combines the speed, efficiency and read lengths of natural nucleotides with the accuracy and scalability of endpoint detection, revolutionary sequencing hardware and machine learning capabilities.

Ultima has already demonstrated its platform’s efficacy in several publications and projects. For example, researchers at The Whitehead Institute demonstrated the immediate usability of the platform in large-scale single-cell studies. Additionally, researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine (SCGPM) used Ultima’s technology to conduct a whole-genome methylation landscape of pre-cancerous tissues.

“Ultima Genomics’ architecture will revolutionize sequencing and take what we can do to a whole new level,” Michael Snyder, director of SCGPM said. “The ability to sequence many thousands of genomes and epigenomes will transform diagnostics and disease risk prediction.”

Ultima’s platform has come to fruition after five years of building the sequencing architecture which includes novel approaches to flow cell engineering, sequencing chemistry and machine learning. The technology’s ability to scale far beyond current conventional measures primes it for proliferative use in research and diagnostic settings.

“DNA is nature’s storage media and the instruction set for every living organism, yet with current technologies, we can’t access that information at the scale needed to truly understand complex biology,” Gilad Almogy, Ultima Genomics founder and CEO said in a statement. “Our architecture is intended for radical scaling, and the $100 genome is merely the first example of what it can deliver. We are committed to continuously drive down the cost of genomic information until it is routinely used in every part of the healthcare system.”

This objective will surely be welcomed with open arms in healthcare. According to MedlinePlus, the cost of genetic testing can range from under $100 to more than $2,000 for just one test, and multiple tests of one individual or an individual’s family may be warranted for a meaningful result. For people with some types of cancer, including breast cancer, genetic counseling and testing may be sought out to determine risk and preventative steps, but high financial barriers can deter someone from seeking out these preventative appointments.

General Atlantic, Andreessen Horowitz, D1 Capital and Khosla Ventures, among others, contributed to the financing round.