Illumina Admits First Startup Accelerator Class

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Bioinformatics giant Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) is getting into the accelerator game, along with other players in the life sciences and other fields. On Wednesday it announced the first three startups chosen to start the program this fall at its San Francisco lab space.

San Diego-based Illumina, which makes genomic analysis systems, unveiled the program in February, joining the growing list of academic institutions, venture-backed groups, and life science corporations building start-up space in the Bay Area and beyond. Not least among the benefits of the Illumina accelerator program is access to the company’s high-end gene sequencing systems, which are installed  in the lab space Illumina has leased near the Mission Bay campus of the University of California, San Francisco.

The accelerator’s terms are similar to those offered at other programs of its kind: The young companies will receive seed investments in exchange for an equity stake, as well as business advice from expert mentors. Illumina’s partners in nurturing the growth of the startups are billionaire Russian investor Yuri Milner and Silicon Valley Bank.

The first three companies in the six-month Illumina program are Encoded Genomics, Xcell Biosciences, and EpiBiome.

Both Xcell and Encoded are currently residents of other startup programs. Xcell, which is working on a new way to find rare cancer cells in blood samples and grow the cell population to facilitate testing, is in Bayer Healthcare’s CoLaborator, which houses seven startups in Mission Bay. Encoded, which has kept details of its genomics-related work more guarded, occupies space at [email protected], a San Francisco incubator jointly run by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Labs and QB3, a University of California-affiliated group.

EpiBiome jumped the gun and announced its selection for the Illumina program in September. Its initial goal is to develop anti-infective treatments for cows.

The list of other players that run or support Bay area incubators or accelerators includes the University of California, Stanford University, Peter Thiel’s private foundation, Y Combinator, Bayer Healthcare, and Johnson & Johnson. Some of these programs focus on the life sciences, and some are tech accelerators expanding their reach into biotech, as we reported here about Y Combinator and StartX.

Just last week, Xconomy reported that the investment group SOS Ventures has leased space for a new synthetic biology accelerator, IndieBio, in San Francisco’s mid-Market neighborhood, which is better known for hotels, shopping, and more recently, Twitter’s new headquarters.