Illumina backs Venter's plan to create world's largest human genome sequencing center

J. Craig Venter

The company J. Craig Venter founded in 1998 to challenge the Human Genome Project ran a data center with 70 terabytes of storage. Venter's latest scheme will fill that in less than one week. To get the new project started Venter has founded a company, raised $70 million, bought two Illumina ($ILMN) HiSeq X Ten systems and set his sights on creating the world's largest sequencing center.

Venter has founded the company--called Human Longevity--with stem cell pioneer Dr. Robert Hariri and X Prize Foundation founder Dr. Peter Diamandis to tap into the potential of Illumina's $1,000 genome-enabling sequencing system. Human Longevity will start off with two HiSeq X Tens--giving it capacity to sequence almost 40,000 whole genomes a year--and has the option to buy three more. The purchase will see Human Longevity leapfrog the likes of the Broad Institute--which effectively bought 1.4 HiSeq X Tens--to become the world's largest human genome sequencing center.

"I have been waiting for 13 years for the technology to jump up to a scale that is needed for genomics to have a significant impact. We have just crossed that threshold," Venter told Bloomberg. As well as sequencing more than 100 genomes a day, Human Longevity plans to analyze biochemicals and lipids that circulate in people and gather data on the genetics of microbes that live in and on the body. Finally, Human Longevity will link clinical records to the sequencing data. The overall goal is to build the world's largest database of human genetic variation and use it to help people live longer.

First, Human Longevity must set up lab space in San Diego, install the equipment and begin hiring the 100 people it plans to take on in its first year. Venter expects the $70 million--a "not insignificant" part of which was provided by Illumina--to last just 18 months. By then Human Longevity should be further along with its plans to generate revenue by selling access to the data to biopharma companies and other researchers. The sheer scale of the sequencing effort, coupled to the clinical records' phenotypic insights and the microbiome data, makes it potentially valuable to drugmakers.

- here's Bloomberg's article
- check out the New York Times' take (sub. req.)
- read Bio-IT World's coverage
- and FierceBiotech's piece

Special Report: 2012's 25 most influential people in biopharma - J. Craig Venter