Last year, Illumina ponied up $100 million to start a genomics-focused venture capital fund. Now, Illumina Ventures has added another $130 million to the kitty, bringing the total to $230 million.
Founded by Nicholas Naclerio, a former Illumina senior vice president, Illumina Ventures invests in companies working on new ways to use nucleic acid sequencing and to use genomics to better human health. The new funding comes from a range of sources, including corporate, sovereign, institutional and individual investors.
"Genomics has the potential to solve many of society's biggest challenges, from understanding the molecular basis of life to more accurate medical diagnosis, life-saving drugs and more sustainable sources of energy and food," Naclerio said in a statement. "The investor interest in this fund exceeded my expectations and will allow us to expand our team and support a greater number of entrepreneurs."
While it shares a name with its parent company, Illumina Ventures is managed independently from Illumina. Since its launch in 2016, Illumina Ventures has backed several companies, including Kallyope, which is using sequencing to better understand the gut-brain connection, and Genome Medical, which seeks to widen access to genome technology in medical practice.
"Genomic insights as part of routine and acute health care will revolutionize clinical medicine," said Randy Scott, co-founder and chairman of the board at Genome Medical, in the statement. "There is a big need to bridge the growing gap between available genome technology and current medical practice. This is something Illumina Ventures well understands."
Illumina Ventures isn’t the diagnostics giant’s only effort to boost the genomics space. In 2015, Illumina joined forces with Warburg Pincus and Sutter Hill Ventures to set up Helix, a $100 million personal genomics startup. Helix launched its online marketplace in July. It offers sequencing-based products from Helix’s partners, including a saliva-based carrier test for more than 60 hereditary diseases. What differentiates Helix from other personal genomics players is that once a customer’s DNA has been sequenced, it may be used with other offerings on the marketplace without requiring another DNA sample.