Illumina commits $100M to new genomics-focused VC shop

Computer model of DNA
(AstraZeneca)

Illumina ($ILMN) has committed $100 million to a venture capital fund. The fund, Illumina Ventures, is focused on early-stage companies that are working on new uses for nucleic acid sequencing, ways to use genomics to improve human health and products that otherwise expand the sector.

Nicholas Naclerio, Illumina’s former SVP of corporate and venture development, has established the fund. But, while the fund is strongly linked to Illumina, both through its name and personnel, it will be managed independently of the genomics giant. The model is reminiscent of the freedom enjoyed by GV, the fund formerly known as Google Ventures, which makes investments independent of its parent company.

In some regards, Naclerio’s fund has even more of an arm’s length relationship to Illumina than GV does to Alphabet ($GOOG). Notably, while Illumina will be the majority limited partner in the fund, the plan is to involve other investors in the initiative. Illumina CEO Jay Flatley sees advantages in committing cash to a fund that will also have the financial and intellectual support of third-party investors.

“Participating in an independent fund led by Nick that can leverage capital and know-how from other investors who share our strategic interests is an even more effective way for us to utilize Illumina’s capital to create incremental shareholder value,” Flatley said in a statement.

The creation of the fund adds another component to the genomics ecosystem Flatley and his team are building around Illumina. In recent years, Illumina has set up an incubator, made investments in companies including J. Craig Venter’s Human Longevity, Inc. and helped to found ambitious startups of its own, namely Grail and Helix. Illumina Ventures, like these previous initiatives, gives the firm a way to profit from the genomics companies that have sprung up on the back of its sequencers.

- read the statement

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