Helix, Illumina Partner to Support Startups for DNA-Driven Consumer Products

Personal genomics company Helix and Illumina are partnering to support consumer genomics startups. Helix is teaming up with Illumina Accelerator to provide resources and support for innovative entrepreneurs developing DNA-driven products for the consumer market. The partners are calling for startups to submit an application to Illumina Accelerator’s seventh round of funding by September 1 2017.

Illumina Accelerator claims to be the world’s first business accelerator focused on supporting genomics startups. The initiative operates on a six-monthly funding cycle to provide successful applicants with seed investment, mentoring business guidance, laboratory space in the San Francisco Bay area, and access to Illumina sequencing technologies, reagents, and software. Additional match funding can be accessed through the $40 million Illumina Acclerator Boost Capital.

Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area, Helix was set up in 2015 with support from Illumina, which remains its largest shareholder. The latest partnership between Helix and Illuminator Accelerator will give startups that are developing consumer-centered DNA-powered products access to Helix’s specialist expertise in areas spanning next-generation sequencing (NGS), bioinformatics, applied genomics, software and product development to regulatory affairs, quality assurance, consumer marketing, and business development.

“Illumina Accelerator is focused on driving value for genomics startups by providing access to vital resources such as capital, sequencing and genomics expertise, coaching, and local lab and office space,” said Mostafa Ronaghi, Ph.D., Illumina’s svp, CTO, and co-founder of Illumina Accelerator. “By working with Helix during our seventh funding cycle, select startups will have unparalleled access to Helix’s commercial market expertise and sequencing platform for their consumer applications.”

“From an entrepreneur’s perspective, cost pressures, stringent regulatory and data security requirements, and continually evolving sequencing technologies are barriers to designing, developing, scaling up, and commercializing DNA-powered products for everyday life,” added Robin Thurston, Helix’s CEO. “Through our collaboration with Illumina Accelerator, we hope to provide breakthrough startups with the resources, infrastructure, and support to transform their ideas into compelling consumer applications and services that make genomics relevant and accessible to every person based on their unique interests.”

Last month, Helix launched its online consumer marketplace for personalized genomics products. Through the service, individuals can order sequencing-based genome analysis through Helix’s partners to provide insights into ancestry, family, fitness health, and nutrition. Helix first collects and sequences an individual’s DNA sample and stores the DNA so that products can be ordered from the Helix marketplace without having to provide another saliva sample. The DNA is sequenced at Helix’s accredited facilities using the firm’s next-generation sequencing (NGS) Exome+ assay, which sequences all 22,000 protein-coding genes, as well as generating additional relevant genomic information. When products are ordered through the marketplace, Helix shares the relevant DNA data with the partner company carrying out the analysis. Genetic counseling is also offered through Genome Medical. 

“Helix’s mission is to empower every person to improve their life through DNA, and a core component of building our diverse marketplace is to enable innovative developers to integrate DNA insights into their products and services,” commented Justin Kao, co-founder and svp at Helix. “We are proud to collaborate with Illumina Accelerator to stimulate innovation in personal genomics by helping selected startups harness their creativity and build best-in-class DNA-powered products for everyday use.”

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