Amgen genomics startup wins $40M Series A to follow up deCode in Ireland


The dream of more effective, cheaper drug development and improved health outcomes based on genomic information has been a long time coming. One of the earliest and most high-profile adherents to that vision was deCode Genetics, which was founded in 1996 and dedicated to unveiling the genomic secrets of the Icelandic population for use in drug development.

Amgen ($AMGN) acquired deCode for $415 million in 2012, a deal that’s starting to pay off in its drug development pipeline. Now, another startup is aiming to build its business around insights gleaned from a particular population, this time in Ireland.

Genomics Medicine Ireland has raised $40 million in a Series A round to create a genomic R&D program based in Dublin. The company’s platform is based on deCode’s work and is intended to be used to better understand the underlying biology of major diseases and identify new drug targets. It expects to work with academic and corporate partners to develop drugs and diagnostics based on the genomic data.

In fact, Amgen was among the company’s founders when it was started last year. GMI will an approach similar to deCode, but in an Irish population.

“We look forward to working closely with the Irish healthcare system to develop better diagnostics and new means to optimize health and patient outcomes,” said acting GMI CEO Daniel Crowley in a statement. “The size and characteristics of the Irish population can powerfully advance scientific discovery as researchers are able to pinpoint variations in DNA relevant to disease and useful for improving medicine.”

The financing included Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, and GV (formerly Google Ventures). The company is expected to hire 150 employees in Dublin over the next three years.

"deCode and Iceland demonstrated the power of population based genomic analysis when properly applied," Polaris Founding Partner Terry McGuire said. "GMI will create a powerful engine to continue to mine this important area for medical insights that will change the delivery of healthcare.

GMI is planning comprehensive population-scale genomic studies to elucidate the genetic and lifestyle factors involved in disease in order to create better diagnostics and more targeted therapies. The startup plans to announce its first collaboration with an Irish hospital soon--and ultimately expects to set up a network of clinical collaborators throughout the country.

"We've seed-funded seminal genomics companies over the past 20 years, such as Illumina and deCode genetics. GMI's strong team and experienced partners, combined with Ireland's very singular setting, can uniquely build off that core work to enable next generation medicine,” summed up Arch Managing Director Paul Thurk.