DeCODE spinout raises $15M to bring gene sequencing into daily Dx

Backed by a $15 million Series A financing, NextCODE Health in Massachusetts is now officially open for business. The new Cambridge startup is built around crucial gene sequencing technology developed at the old deCODE genetics (note the catchy name similarity). Its focus: to help doctors and geneticists quickly diagnose patients by rapidly identifying genes and mutations behind their diseases.

Investors Polaris Venture Partners and Arch Venture Partners supplied the cash for the new venture. If their names sound familiar in the context of deCODE, they should. They snatched the Icelandic company out of bankruptcy in 2010 for a song and sold it to Amgen ($AMGN) two years later for $415 million.

NextCODE will revolve around a genomics platform developed by deCODE genetics. It holds a 5-year exclusive license to the technology, including IT infrastructure and data analysis tech. According to the deal announcement, NextCODE plans to use the service in a bid to make genomic sequencing a rapid, everyday part of patient diagnosis.

NextCODE's founding CEO is Hannes Smarason, who was deCODE's CFO and executive vice president of business and finance from 1997 through 2004. Jeff Gulcher, co-founder of deCODE Genetics and its former chief scientific officer, keeps the CSO role with the new company and will also serve as its president.

"Our vision is to transform patient diagnosis and resultant care through the rapid and accurate use of genome sequence data, and we are deploying the most powerful tools ever developed to make this vision a reality," Smarason said in a statement. "We are proud to build on deCODE's legacy of discovery as we deliver capabilities needed to meet the urgent needs of patients and physicians today."

Smarason told Xconomy that the ideas behind NextCODE had been percolating at deCODE for several years.

NextCODE said it is already generating revenue. Specifically, the company already has a number of service agreements with clinical centers, including Boston Children's Hospital, Newcastle University in the U.K., Saitama University in Japan and Queensland University in Australia.

This is an intriguing new chapter in the deCODE saga. The company fell into bankruptcy in 2009, felled by investor anxiety and the 2008 financial crisis. And then Polaris and Arch stepped in, snatching up the assets for $14 million. Amgen grabbed deCODE for $415 million in 2012, arguing that the genetic research technology could give the surging biotech a major edge in drug development. Now, some of deCODE's core technology lives on in NextCODE, this time with a focus on everyday healthcare, and the industry will be watching to see if the hype behind the science will be fully realized this time.

- read the funding announcement
- here's Xconomy's take

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