Thursday, February 20, 2014

An accelerator for genomics startups?

This week, the sequencing company Illumina announced a tie-up with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to fund an accelerator for genomics startups. Illumina will provide lab space, sequencing equipment and $100,000 for initial costs of operation. Milner will provide additional financial support.

Seems like it's a win-win for both partners; Illumina builds the machines, and gets young entrepreneurs to discover cool things to do with them, in turn fueling demand for their product. Both Illumina and Milner will get good press as well. Milner, in particular, is already funding prizes for breakthroughs in physics and the life sciences, although the life sciences prizes, in particular, have so far largely been awarded to scientists who are already big names in their fields and are well funded.

The challenge in genomics, unlike some other areas of biology, is not so much the generation of data as figuring out what to do with it. It lends itself well to the current trend of "big data" and network analytics, and is definitely cheaper and faster than, say, generating a transgenic animal model to study a specific disease.  It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this collaboration, and whether there is potential for more such tie-ups between companies and private investors.

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