Google leads $21M Series B for epigenetic sequencing upstart, as it adds ex-Illumina exec as CEO

GV, formerly Google Ventures, has led a $21 million Series B round for Cambridge Epigenetix to back its epigenetic sequencing tech. The company expects that its novel TrueMethyl oxidative bisulfite sequencing technology will offer new methods for diagnostics as drug discovery.

CEGX CEO Geoff Smith

To help make these plans a reality, the Cambridge, U.K.-based startup has brought in a new CEO--Dr. Geoff Smith, who was previously a site lead and VP or Product Development at Illumina ($ILMN). The private company has a shorthand version of its name, CEGX.

"CEGX is today ideally positioned to catalyze the market for epigenetics--just as Solexa and Illumina did for genomics a decade ago--and I am thrilled to have joined at such a transformational time for the company and in driving the next generation of epigenetics products" said Smith in a statement. "We appreciate the continued support of our existing investors, and look forward to working with our new investors, whose unparalleled expertise in building data-driven businesses of substantial value will be key."

CEGX co-founders Bobby Yerramilli-Rao (left) and Shankar Balasubramanian

As part of the financing, GV General Partner Tom Hulme will join the CEGX board, while co-founder Dr. Bobby Yerramilli-Rao will become chairman. Cambridge Epigenetix is a spinout of the University of Cambridge that was founded in 2012 by Yerramilli-Rao and Shankar Balasubramanian. The latter is credited with co-inventing the Solexa/Illumina sequencing-by-synthesis platform.

"CEGX's mission is to promote better health through continuous measurement of the epigenome," said Dr. Yerramilli-Rao. "CEGX's novel technologies are allowing scientists to begin unlocking the tremendous potential of epigenetics. Geoff's decades of experience in the genomics and Next-Generation Sequencing industries position him uniquely to lead CEGX."

TrueMethyl Seq kit--Courtesy of CEGX

The company's foundational ox-BS sequencing tech entails quantitative, single-base resolution sequencing of the modified bases hydroxymethyl cytosine (5hmC) and methylcytosine (5mC). The ability to distinguish between these was previously no possible with traditional bisulfite sequencing methods, it noted. Its TrueMethyl tech is expected to the basis of platforms including next generation sequencing systems, methylation arrays and targeted assays.

"We've seen how the commercialization of genome sequencing has created incredible opportunities to improve human health, and now the epigenome holds similar potential," summed up GV's Hulme. "Cambridge Epigenetix is one of the few teams on the planet with the skills and experience to break new ground here, and we look forward to supporting them on that journey."

- here is the announcement