Y Combinator continues push into bioinformatics with investment in Cofactor Genomics

Startup bootcamp Y Combinator has backed Cofactor Genomics, an RNA testing business. The deal marks another step in YC's expansion beyond tech and into biotech and gives St. Louis, MO-based Cofactor Genomics a way into Silicon Valley, TechCrunch reports.

Cofactor Genomics set up shop 6 years ago, picked up a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health last month and claims to have contracts with 9 large pharma companies. But as a Midwest-based outsider to the Silicon Valley community--which since 23andMe got started has shown an appetite for backing health testing startups--Cofactor Genomics has been closed off from what is emerging as a significant source of capital and connections for its industry. Getting into bed with YC is a way for Cofactor Genomics to move from being an outsider to an insider.

"They don't necessarily have the domain knowledge, but they make these connections in the Valley that for us are extremely important," Cofactor Genomics CEO Jarret Glasscock said. Glasscock has the pitch for his newly-created contacts ready. "We believe that RNA is a better barometer of health. It changes dynamically and we think it's a much more accurate and much earlier way to diagnose disease. DNA is pre-symptomatic. But with RNA, we think we'll be able to see a molecular signature sooner," he said.

Cofactor Genomics first made headlines in 2010 for sequencing the DNA of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne but has since made RNA the cornerstone of its business. The sequencing operation is backed up by bioinformaticians who help clients make sense of their data and a web-based platform called ActiveSite. Clients can use the platform to submit sample information, export their results and share data with other members of their teams. Cofactor Genomics offers an analysis service for companies that already have sequencing data. RNA analysis costs around $370 per sample.

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