Illumina Commits $100M to New VC Fund

April 15, 2016
Illumina Commits $100M to New VC Fund
Illumina is committing $100 million over 10 years to Illumina Ventures. [smcn/Fotolia]

Illumina is committing $100 million over 10 years to a new venture capital firm whose investment priorities will be in line with the company’s vision.

Illumina said the new firm—to be called Illumina Ventures—will be managed independently of the sequencing giant. However, Illumina will be the majority limited partner in the firm’s first fund as a result of its commitment.

Illumina Ventures plans to invest in early-stage companies that reflect Illumina’s vision of “improving human health by unlocking the power of the genome.” Those startups, according to Illumina, will focus on pioneering new applications of nucleic acid sequencing, developing products designed to expand the genomics ecosystem, and applying genomics to improve human health.

Nicholas Naclerio, Ph.D., Illumina’s former svp, corporate and venture development, has established and will lead Illumina Ventures.

“Under Nick's leadership, internal venture investing has worked well for Illumina, providing strategic insight and connections to key technologies and channels in our industry,” Illumina Chairman and CEO Jay Flatley said in a statement. “Participating in an independent fund led by Nick that can leverage capital and know-how from other investors who share our strategic interests is an even more effective way for us to utilize Illumina's capital to create incremental shareholder value.”

The new firm is Illumina’s latest initiative toward expanding the universe of genomics companies and technologies through investing in and nurturing other companies.

Illumina was among investors that helped Human Longevity Inc. (HLI) raise more than $220 million in a Series B preferred stock offering announced April 4. J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., who serves as HLI’s CEO, and two co-founders launched the company in 2014 with the goal of creating the world's largest and most comprehensive database of whole-genome, phenotype, and clinical data. The company aims to develop and apply large-scale computing and machine learning to make discoveries intended to revolutionize the practice of medicine.

Also in 2014, Illumina launched its Illumina Accelerator Program, offering mentorship, financial support, and access to sequencing systems, reagents, and lab space to startups deemed promising. Applications for the accelerator’s winter 2016–2017 program are due September 1.

Illumina joined Warburg Pincus and Sutter Hill Ventures last August in creating Helix, a company formed to help consumers discover insights into their own genomes. At the time, Helix reported more than $100 million in financing commitments.

And in January, Illumina joined investors that included Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos in committing more than $100 million toward GRAIL, a new company formed to develop an early-detection screening test for cancers by measuring circulating tumor DNA in the blood.

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