Illumina takes a leaf out of the tech playbook with its genomics startup accelerator

Tech startup incubator Y Combinator has a reputation as a spawning ground for major companies, with Dropbox and Airbnb among those passing through its program. Yuri Milner played a role in the accelerator in recent years, but reduced his commitment in December. Now, he has revealed that some of the cash and time this freed up will go into running a genomics incubator with Illumina ($ILMN).

San Diego-based Illumina is looking for three companies that are developing next-generation sequencing (NGS) applications to join the incubator's first 6-month program. Each startup will be offered $100,000 in convertible notes by Milner, a $20,000 credit line and access to $100,000 worth of Illumina reagents, sequencing instrument hire and technician time. In return, Illumina will take 10% of common stock in the participants.

Illumina is setting up the incubator near the 97,000-square-feet R&D facility it is developing in San Francisco's Mission Bay. Over the 6-month program--two of which will run each year--the startups will receive help with company setup, process mapping and pitch development. Each participant will also have access to what Illumina describes as a "fully operational plug-and-play accelerator lab space" for the duration of the program.

While such incubators are common in the tech world--and have a limited presence in biotech--there are few tailored to genomics. The University of British Columbia runs a genomics accelerator, but its program only lasts 8 weeks. Illumina's program is more expansive and has the cachet of its name and Milner's too. Running the program will give Illumina and Milner an early look at--and chance to invest in--startups that could reshape healthcare and drug development in the genomics era.

- read GEN's coverage
- here's SF Business Times' take
- check out Illumina's release
- and its Q&A (PDF)

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