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Feb 12, 2014

Illumina Launches Program to Accelerate Genomics Startups

Illumina Launches Program to Accelerate Genomics Startups

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  • Illumina said today it launched the first business accelerator focused solely on creating an innovation ecosystem for the genomics industry.

    The Illumina Accelerator Program will aim to speed the time to market and lower the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and early-stage companies working on scientifically and commercially promising next-generation sequencing (NGS) applications, the sequencing giant said.

    Creation of the accelerator comes about a month after Illumina electrified the JP Morgan 32nd Annual Healthcare Conference by trumpeting the arrival of the long-awaited $1,000 human genome through its new HiSeq X10 system—a benchmark of the dramatic reduction in sequencing costs. That same week, Illumina unveiled its “strategic roadmap," a series of efforts designed to expand the use of NGS into clinical settings that have slowly begun warming up to the technology.

    “We’ve only begun to scratch the surface, however, and we’re excited to foster the next generation of genomics innovators working in areas as diverse as agriculture, forensics, consumer genetics, and diagnostics,” Mostafa Ronaghi, Illumina’s svp and CTO, said in a statement. “The Illumina Accelerator Program will make it easier for them to validate and create NGS applications and bring these solutions to market.”

    Initial partners in the accelerator program include Silicon Valley Bank, which intends to provide banking services and credit to each participating company, and technology investor Yuri Milner, who will offer each participating company $100,000 in exchange for convertible notes. Milner’s investments in Facebook and Zynga helped propel both startups into social media giants.

    “Next-generation sequencing has reached the liftoff stage. I’m excited to support this endeavor promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the genomics ecosystem and look forward to working with Illumina, the global leader in sequencing technology,” Milner said in a statement.

    Through its six-month program, Illumina’s accelerator will provide invited participants with technology and business guidance and Milner’s $100,000 in support, plus access to sequencing systems and reagents, as well as fully operational lab space near the company’s planned R&D facility in San Francisco’s Mission Bay.

    San Diego-based Illumina inked a 10-year lease in June 2013 for about 97,000 square feet at 499 Illinois St.—about 45% of the space in the building, which is owned by Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

    In addition to funding, technology access, and mentorship, Illumina said accelerator participants will have access to the company’s global customer and venture networks and partner support services including financial modeling, forecasting, and legal and human resource assistance. Participants will also receive licensing and technology transfer support and pitch preparation support.

    The Illumina Accelerator Program will launch a competition to select up to three companies to participate in each six-month session per year. Applications are due May 16 at www.illumina.com/accelerator for the inaugural session, which begins August 1.



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