Genentech teams with Venter's HLI as Roche group continues genomics push

J. Craig Venter

Genentech has struck another deal with a West Coast genetics player. Having given a $60 million boost to 23andMe last week, the Roche ($RHHBY)-owned biotech has now turned to J. Craig Venter's Human Longevity (HLI) for help sequencing and analyzing tens of thousands of genomes.

HLI will apply its arsenal of Illumina ($ILMN) and Pacific Biosciences ($PACB) sequencers--which includes two of the former's $1,000 genome-enabling HiSeq X Ten systems--to the task. And with a solid pipeline of samples now in place, HLI is planning to buy more Illumina sequencers and hire 200 people to handle the work, U-T San Diego reports. The Genentech deal and subsequent expansion will move HLI closer to its goal of sequencing 40,000 genomes a year.

"We're trying to build the world's most powerful database by having a very large number of genomes and associated phenotype information to make this information meaningful. This deal is a step in that direction," Venter told Reuters. Importantly, the deal with Genentech gives HLI both genomic and clinical information from people enrolled in trials. The generation of knowledge by linking genomic data to other resources is a big part of what HLI is trying to achieve.

For Genentech, the collaboration gives it another way to identify new drug targets and biomarkers. The biotech and its parent company Roche have started 2015 with a flurry of genomics deals. As well as Genentech's alliances with 23andMe and HLI, Roche has paid $780 million for a majority stake in Foundation Medicine ($FMI). "This is not a business that is core to Roche today. This is a molecular information business," Daniel O'Day, the COO of Roche's pharma division, told FierceBiotech.

- read the HLI release
- check out U-T San Diego's piece
- here's Reuters' coverage
- and FierceBiotech's FMI article