VCs tap Amgen-acquired genomics database to power startup

DeCode Genetics was one of the more unlikely biopharma success stories of recent years. After deCode filed for bankruptcy, Arch Venture Partners and Polaris Partners bought it for $14 million in 2010. Within three years they sold the company to Amgen ($AMGN) for $415 million. Now they are trying to repeat the success.

Arch and Polaris have founded NextCODE Health in a $15 million Series A round and inked a 5-year exclusive license for the genomics platform developed by deCode. NextCODE will initially provide the platform on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis to academic and medical centers--which will use it to spot disease-causing mutations in their patients--and pump cash from these projects into further development. Heavy-use research sites will be given the option to move beyond the SaaS model, and NextCODE eventually wants to see the platform used as a diagnosis tool by everyday physicians.

NextCODE is also planning to tweak the platform for use in clinical research. The flurry of initial ideas is the result of years of thinking about the potential of the genomics database deCode built. "This is an idea that has been floating around within deCode for quite some time. We had some thoughts to do it within deCode, but then there were other opportunities that presented themselves, meaning the interest from Amgen to acquire deCode, and then this got put on the back burner," NextCode CEO--and former deCode CFO--Hannes Smarason told Xconomy.

Smarason has already signed deals with Boston Children's Hospital, Queensland University in Australia and Saitama University in Japan but faces competition from the likes of Golden Helix and SV Bio. The advantage NextCODE has, as Smarason sees it, is the Genomic Ordered Relational database infrastructure, sequence analysis systems and sheer wealth of data it has licensed from deCode. SaaS clients will avoid the need to invest heavily in IT infrastructure, while still benefiting from the 40 million validated variants in deCode's database. "We just work with more genomic data than anyone else. It's a massive advantage," Smarason said.

- read the Xconomy article
- check out GenomeWeb's take (reg. req.)
- and FierceMedicalDevices' take
- here's the press release