Illumina, LabCorp, Mayo Clinic, Warburg assemble to back latest consumer genomics entrant: Helix

Not to be outdone by other big-picture diagnostics players raising huge chunks of cash for consumer genomics--industry bellwether Illumina ($ILMN) has weighed in with its own gambit. It's creating a venture dubbed Helix that's starting out with more than $100 million from investors including Warburg Pincus, the Mayo Clinic and Sutter Hill Ventures.

Diagnostics giant LabCorp ($LH) has already signed on to provide analysis and interpretive services for consumers regarding "medically actionable genetic conditions," according to a statement. In addition to investing, the Mayo Clinic--which was recently bumped to the top of search engine Google for medical information--has also signed up to work with Helix to develop applications focused initially on consumer education and health-related queries.

So the likes of partners such as LabCorp and the Mayo Clinic can essentially use Helix, which will be based in the San Francisco, CA area, as a source for back-end data that they can use to deliver patient-specific genomic analysis. The startup expects to expand via a variety of partners into genetic application areas including examinations of genealogy, fitness, wellness and inherited traits.

"We believe that the digitization of the genome will unleash entrepreneurs and developers to create new applications for consumers in a way never before possible," said Warburg Managing Director of Healthcare Noah Knauf in a statement.

The idea is for Helix to establish one of the largest, next-gen sequencing labs--and to enable its partners to use the resulting cloud-based data to layer on useful consumer access tools that offer genomic information and insights. The deal structure offers a relatively low-risk way for Illumina to test the waters of consumer-oriented genomics, which is a bit far afield from its usual focus on providing equipment, software and assays designed largely for research use.

Illumina CEO Jay Flatley

"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 Illumina CEO Jay Flatley, who will be the chairman at the new company, 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 said that it will consolidate Helix on its financial statements. It added that the pro-rata impact was already included in its most recent 2015 guidance. For 2016, it expects the deal will be dilutive to non-GAAP EPS by about $0.10.

Among private consumer genomics companies, startups such as Soon Shiong's NantHealth have been tallying huge investment sums. Meanwhile, the likes of prenatal diagnostics player Natera ($NTRA) and consumer-oriented Invitae ($NVTA) already have pulled off big IPOs this year.

- here is the statement

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