10X Genomics exits stealth mode with $80M, plan to improve Illumina tech

10X Genomics' product--Courtesy of 10X Genomics

10X Genomics has exited stealth mode with $80 million in VC funding and a plan to solve a significant sequencing problem without going head to head with Illumina ($ILMN). The Pleasanton, CA-based startup is set to unveil an add-on for Illumina sequencers that improves their ability to map long reads of DNA.

A team led by Serge Saxonov--the former head of R&D at 23andMe--has been working on long-read sequencing for several years, but only went public with its plans this week. 10X Genomics timed its exit from stealth mode to coincide with the JP Morgan conference and the closing of its $55.5 million Series B round. The round brought 10X Genomics' total VC funding up to $80 million. A full unveiling of the tech that attracted investors is scheduled for next month, but Saxonov has outlined the idea.

10X Genomics has developed an add-on for Illumina systems that combines microfluidics, chemistry and bioinformatics to overcome the limitations of the genomics giant's sequencers, which are good at quickly and cheaply sequencing lots of samples, but lose some details in the process. Pacific Biosciences ($PACB) has eked out a niche selling long-read sequencers that chart the details lost in Illumina's process, but only well-financed labs can afford to buy both.

Designing an add-on instead of a standalone sequencer has allowed 10X Genomics to keep the cost of its product down to $75,000 and avoid the unenviable task of competing head to head with Illumina. San Diego, CA-based Illumina moved to tighten its grip on the sequencing market this week with the introduction of a clutch of new products, including a HiSeq X Five system. "We believe these products will extend Illumina's monopoly," Wells Fargo analyst Tim Evans wrote in a note.

- read Forbes' coverage
- check out Xconomy's take
- here's Bio-IT World's article
- and Illumina's release