Craig Venter’s Latest Startup Gets $70M To Sequence Loads of Genomes

Xconomy San Diego — 

J. Craig Venter, the human genome pioneer, today unveiled a new San Diego-based venture with an ambitious goal of providing whole genome sequencing and cell-therapy-based diagnostic services for patients.

Venter said he co-founded the company, Human Longevity Inc., or HLI, with Robert Hariri, who oversaw Celgene Cellular Therapeutics and Peter Diamandis of the X Prize Foundation. The company already has raised $70 million in Series A venture financing that includes a Malaysian investment fund that also is the lead investor of another Venter venture, Synthetic Genomics, San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), and other individual investors.

Venter plans to serve as the chairman and CEO of both HLI and San Diego-based Synthetic Genomics, which he co-founded in 2005 to engineer genes within organisms so they can produce fuel, chemicals, medicines, and nutritional products.

Craig Venter

Craig Venter

The HLI effort, which Venter and others repeatedly described as “unprecedented” in a conference call this morning, will initially focus on basic research and development, sequencing every cancer patient who comes into the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, as well as other patients with diabetes, obesity, heart and liver diseases, and dementia.

In a statement this morning, HLI says it has established collaborative research and development partnerships with UC San Diego, Metabolon, and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). North Carolina-based Metabolon is expected to provide information about patients’ metabolytes, key chemicals in their blood.

HLI also has formed a Biome Healthcare division, led by Karen Nelson, to generate gene sequencing data of the microbiome for many patients. The microbiome consists of all the microbes that live in the human gut (and elsewhere in and on the human body). New research by Nelson and others suggest that such bacteria play a key role in human health and disease.

The early goal at HLI is to … Next Page »

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