SoftBank-backed 10x Genomics makes a clever buy to help unlock the human biological code

Aug. 30, 2018

Biotech company 10x Genomics, which helps analyze the human biological code to understand and improve health, is one of the best-funded enterprises in Silicon Valley at the intersection of biology and technology. Now, it’s making its first acquisition, which it hopes will help it stay ahead of the game in one of the newest areas of scientific research.

The company is buying a venture-backed start-up called Epinomics, which is developing technologies for epigenetics research. Epigenetics is a super-hot field, as scientists have learned in recent years that sequencing genes isn’t enough to understand human health. Something is turning those genes on and off, and that has massive implications for disease.

The company has raised more than $230 million from SoftBank, Venrock, and other backers, and generated about $70 million in revenue last year selling its hardware and software tools for sequencing DNA to researchers, labs and pharmaceutical companies. Saxanov, who got his start as a director of R&D at Alphabet-backed 23andMe, said the company is “growing really rapidly,” which puts it in a strong position for an initial public offering in the coming years.

Overall, the genomics market is estimated to be worth about $27 billion by 2025.

SoftBank senior managing partner Deep Nishar said he spent months researching the genome sequencing space before deciding to cut his first life sciences check to 10x in spring 2016. In his view, it’s a complement to the most powerful public company in the space, Illumina. While Illumina makes the machines that interpret DNA and turn it into code that can be analyzed, 10x integrates with them and other sequencing machines to help researchers perform deeper analysis.

Nishar, a veteran of LinkedIn and Google, said the cost to sequence genetic information has dropped much more quickly than predicted by Moore’s Law, a long-standing theory that computing power available for the same price doubles about every 18 months to two years. The price of sequencing plummeted from about $10 million to $1,000 in less than a decade, making Moore’s Law look sedate.

To fuel its growth, 10x needs to keep pace with the latest methods of genome analysis, including single-cell sequencing, which involves analyzing the sequence information within individual cells. The hope is that by doing that, researchers can better understand the therapies or drugs to give to patients with diseases like cancer, rather than to take a “one size fits all” approach to treatment.

Experts outside of the company say that 10x is making a strategic move with this acquisition, which could help speed up the pace of discovery at labs across the world.

CNBC has the full story

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