WuXi NextCODE raises $240M to build genomics business

Sequoia China led the $240 million investment in WuXi NextCODE.

WuXi NextCODE has raised $240 million in a series B round. The investment sets the genomics company up to build out its platform and strike precision medicine and diagnostics partnerships to grow its user base and data repository.  

Sequoia China led the round with support from the funds that co-led WuXi NextCODE’s initial $75 million series B, Temasek and Yunfeng Capital. Temasek, the $275 billion Singapore national wealth fund, and Yunfeng Capital, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma’s fund, were joined in the previous series B close by 3W Partners and Amgen Ventures. 3W Partners also chipped in to the $240 million round.

RELATED: WuXi NextCODE lands $75M Series B led by Temasek and Jack Ma-backed Yunfeng

WuXi NextCODE CEO Hannes Smarason wants to use the money to achieve the nebulous but big goal of developing a “global platform for using genome data to advance global health.”

“We have the unique expertise and now the resources to execute on this strategy,” Smarason said in a statement. “We plan to continue to push the leading edge of technology for digitizing, managing and analyzing genomic big data, including through our pathbreaking AI, and to put it at the service of ever more enterprises, institutions and individuals around the world.”

In practice, this strategy breaks down into distinct businesses. Researchers can use WuXi NextCODE’s platform to organize, question and share population-scale genomics data sets. These capabilities have landed WuXi NextCODE a starring role in initiatives such as the United Kingdom’s 100,000 Genomes Project and, when paired to WuXi NextCODE’s sequencing capabilities, form the foundation of the company. 

The next step is to build products on top of these foundations, starting with a line of tests aimed at the Chinese market. These include diagnostic tests for pediatric rare diseases, carrier screening for people planning to have children and a “whole-genome wellness scan” that echos the high-end genomic health checkups provided by Veritas Genetics and Human Longevity. 

The potential for these tests and other as-yet-unreleased products to turn genomics into a routine part of health management have contributed to a dialling up of investment in the sector.

The size of the round is testament to how genomics has evolved from a field that was seen as having potential in the future to one with major near-term opportunities. NextCODE emerged from Amgen’s $415 million takeover of deCODE, a genomics pioneer that once rode high on Human Genome Project hype but later went bankrupt along its 14-year path from founding to buyout. 

NextCODE has traveled a considerably smoother path. Helmed by deCODE executives, NextCODE picked up a platform from Amgen and $15 million in VC funding. Within 18 months, WuXi PharmaTech bought the startup for $65 million and merged it with its then-nascent Illumina HiSeq X-powered sequencing operation.

The numbers have grown and grown since then. WuXi NextCODE unveiled $75 million in series B funding in May and, following a busy summer of fundraising, has more than tripled that number in the completed round.