Illumina’s personal genomics spinout Helix is expanding its senior commercial leadership team, alongside the acquisition of smartphone application developer HumanCode, adding to its momentum following a planned $200 million venture capital round.
Helix also announced plans to open a new office in Denver, where HumanCode is based, with a blessing from Colorado’s governor. The office joins Helix’s headquarters in San Carlos, California, and lab operations in San Diego. HumanCode has previously partnered with Helix, but now its staff will join the company to help build out its end-to-end, customer-facing platforms.
“We are gaining valuable talent in priority, high-demand areas like engineering and product design and are getting the benefit of an integrated team that has deep experience working together to build engaging consumer experiences in digital health,” Helix CEO Robin Thurston said in a statement.
“The entire HumanCode team have done a tremendous job creating engaging DNA-powered products for the Helix platform. We are very excited for what this means for Helix and for our partners,” Thurston added. Launched in 2015, Helix manages a marketplace for DNA products in the ancestry, wellness and entertainment avenues, and handles the necessary sample collection, sequencing and data storage.
HumanCode cofounder Chris Glode was appointed chief product officer, to oversee product management and design, as well as help develop new tools to allow partners to sell DNA products and services on Helix’s marketplace. Before HumanCode, Glode was VP of connected fitness at Under Armour, and served as VP of product management at MapMyFitness.
In addition, Ajay Gopal joined as chief financial officer. Gopal was previously VP and CFO for the online ticket marketplace StubHub, and served in several finance roles at GE Healthcare. Deena Bahri, who has held marketing leadership roles at several startups, including the cosmetics company Birchbox, was named Helix’s chief marketing officer.
The choice of Denver beat out other emerging and established health and tech hubs such as North Carolina, Texas and Washington state, the company said, due to a rapidly expanding scene dubbed “Silicon Mountain.”
“Helix’s investment in our state will advance the growth for personal genomics in this market, and will create numerous jobs for engineers, product designers, and other tech talent who will be attracted to Denver for it’s great quality of life as well as growing job market,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We are committed to making Denver a hub of innovation, and HumanCode is a testament to this.”
As of March, Helix maintained 35 DNA products from 20 companies, with plans to grow to over 50 products this year through partnerships with organizations including the Mayo Clinic. The current products range from National Geographic’s Geno 2.0, which helps customers understand their ancestry, to one that uses your DNA sequence to knit a unique scarf.
Powered by Illumina, Helix’s next-generation sequencing platform sequences all known 22,000 protein-encoding genes, up to 100 times more data than typical at-home DNA tests, before releasing the relevant portions with the test seller—allowing customers to order more products without having to submit additional samples.