DNA sequencing upstart Element Biosciences raises $276M ahead of its first product launch

DNA helix forming inside a test tube
Though details on the system's workings are scarce, the latest proceeds will help Element gear up for the upcoming commercial launch of its first benchtop analysis platform, while also fueling the development of its own biology tools for genomics research. (Getty Images)

Emerging DNA sequencer developer Element Biosciences has more than doubled its venture capital war chest, with the goal of offering low-cost, modular hardware in a market dominated by a small number of players.

The San Diego-based company’s series C added $276 million in new financing, outpacing the $110 million it gathered in an extended funding round last year and bringing its total haul to about $400 million since its 2017 founding.

That may help it compete with the genetics giant located just down the street, Illumina, which currently commands about 75% of the global sequencing market and more than 90% of the U.S. pie.

Though details on the system are scarce, the latest proceeds will help Element gear up for the upcoming commercial launch of its first benchtop analysis platform, while also fueling the development of its biology tools for genomics research, according to co-founder and CEO Molly He, Ph.D., formerly senior director of scientific research at Illumina and head of protein sciences at Pacific Biosciences.

RELATED: PacBio nets $900M from SoftBank to support its long-read sequencing goals

The round included support from new backers Janus Henderson Investors, Logos Capital, Meritech Capital Partners, Morgan Stanley Counterpoint Global and T. Rowe Price plus the company’s previous investors Fidelity Management, Foresite Capital, JS Capital Management,  RA Capital Advisors and Venrock. 

The company began laying the groundwork earlier this year with the hiring of a new chief commercial officer. In late April, Jeff Journey joined from Thermo Fisher Scientific, where he served as a VP and general manager overseeing its billion-dollar sample preparation business.

RELATED: GenapSys rakes in $70M for tabletop genomic sequencing platform 

Element also hired David Melaugh as general counsel and Jeff Labbadia as VP of operations. Melaugh previously helped lead Apple’s in-house intellectual property litigation team, while Labbadia served 22 years at Becton Dickinson, holding a variety of global operations roles. 

But it’s not the only company looking to chip away at the global DNA sequencing market, nor is it the only one to attract a hefty VC round this year. In May, Oxford Nanopore raised $271 million for its single-molecule analysis systems, just weeks after announcing plans to go public on the London Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, Pacific Biosciences has been buoyed by a $900 million commitment from the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in support of its instruments designed to read longer threads of DNA at a time. And GenapSys has netted $70 million for its sequencer, which weighs under 10 pounds and has a footprint the size of a sheet of paper.