Ireland to Sequence 400K Genomes With New Precision Medicine Effort

Xconomy National — 

Ireland is the latest country to undertake an ambitious national project to sequence the genomes of a sizable chunk of its population. Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI), a population genomics company based in Dublin (pictured), announced today that it is receiving $225 million in “near-term” investment (up to a total of $400 million with milestone payments) from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and other investors to finance this effort. As part of this deal, GMI is being acquired (for an undisclosed price) by WuXi NextCODE (WXNC), which helps power other countries’ population sequencing projects.

With the acquisition and investment, GMI becomes the Irish subsidiary of WXNC, and will try to recruit 400,000 volunteers (roughly 10 percent of Ireland’s population), sequencing their whole genomes and collecting their health and medical data. The aim is to mine that data to look for new drug targets and develop new diagnostics and screening tests that could potentially by used by Ireland’s national healthcare system, according to WXNC’s announcement.

“Between WuXi NextCODE, GMI, and the citizens, doctors, scientists, and institutions of Ireland, I believe we have a truly unique collection of will, talent, and resources to pioneer the realization of precision medicine,” WXNC CEO Rob Brainin said in a prepared statement.

The project mirrors other national genomics efforts, such as the one in the UK, which is sequencing the exomes of 500,000 volunteers, thanks to funding from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) and other drug companies.  The All of Us initiative in the U.S. aims to sequence a million genomes by 2023, and so far more than 133,000 people have registered with the project since it launched earlier this year, according to Geekwire.

WXNC also announced today a $200 million Series C round of financing from several of the same investors that participated in the $400 million GMI deal.