Venter's HLI valued at $1.2B in Series B round

Male scientist looks at large screen

J. Craig Venter's Human Longevity, Inc. has refueled in the race to build an industry-leading repository of genomes and associated data. The refueling took the form of a $220 million Series B round, which reportedly valued the company at upward of $1.2 billion and attracted the support of long-time HLI backers Celgene ($CELG) and Illumina ($ILMN).

HLI plans to use the $220 million to expand its growing suite of services, such as deep-dive consumer genomics offering Health Nucleus and the Comprehensive Cancer Program, while continuing to build out its database. To date, the money needed to support the setup of these activities has come from the $80 million Series A round HLI put together in 2014. In March of that year, Venter said the initial $70 million tranche of Series A cash--a "not insignificant" slice of which came from Illumina--would keep HLI going for 18 months.

Ultimately, the cash, which was added to by Celgene in August 2014, has seen HLI through around 24 months, a period in which it has branched out beyond its initial remit of building the world's largest human genome sequencing center. The HiSeq X Ten-powered sequencing center is still the backbone of HLI, but the company has now fleshed out the business model that it supports. With high-end consumer genomics service Health Nucleus scaling up alongside a whole germline and tumor genome analysis offering, HLI is starting to fulfill Venter's vision of it being a commercial operation.

The commercially-focused services are advancing in parallel to more research-orientated activities. "We're working on cancer vaccines, there's a whole lot of pieces coming together," Venter told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "Our whole genome report is over 500 pages long. There's a lot of unique approaches." In rolling out these approaches, HLI has grown its headcount quickly, blasting past the 100-person team Venter targeted in the first year to reach a point at which it has 300 people on its payroll.

Armed with the $220 million cash injection, Venter plans to continue taking on staff as he leads HLI through the next phase of its evolution, a period that could position the company to IPO down the line.

- read the statement
- here's the Union-Tribune's take
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