Yuri Milner / Getty
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Last week, GenapSys a provider of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) systems, announced it had raised US$37 million to commercialize its proprietary Gene Electronic Nano-Integrated Ultra-Sensitive, or , a fully integrated DNA gene sequencing system for the rapidly evolving NGS market.
The Series B financing includes existing investors Decheng Capital and IPV Capital, both based in Shanghai, with participation from new investors including Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, the Stanford StartX Fund, as well as other private and institutional investors.
Dr. Hesaam Esfandyarpour, who is the founder and CEO of GenapSys, made the following statement: “We were extremely pleased with the high investor interest in our Series B round, and we are delighted to include such high caliber investors as shareholders. With this financing, we now have all the pieces in place to deliver on the commercial promise of the GENIUS system.”
“What we are developing at GenapSys will enable the genomic revolution not only for healthcare, but for a wide range of applications. Genomics will improve the quality of human life and elevate our understanding and knowledge about the world in which we live.”
The end point for development of the GENIUS system will be to produce a completely electronic system that can sequence a genome at a cost of only US$50 with an accuracy of more than 99.7 percent and in a fraction of the time compared to existing methodologies – to be measured in hours rather than weeks.
Wholly natural genes cannot be patented, after a recent controversial Supreme court decision saying that DNA molecules having a sequence that is identical to a sequence found in a portion of the human genome were products of nature, and therefore not eligible for a patent.
However the Supreme Court did also say that modified DNA molecules whose sequences are no longer identical to the genomic sequence, such as complementary DNA could be patentable, so doors are still open there.
Nevertheless, and particularly with the uncertainties stemming from the Delphic like judgment of the Supremes, this reinforces the fact that those who now want to make money from all the health-related advances that genomic sequencing might bring will also have to focus heavily on keeping costs low as it will be competitive not a monopolistic game. GenapSys seems to be right in there at least with its new methods, if they will work at the end of the day.
GenapSys, headquartered in Redwood City, California, is a venture backed privately-held company that has created, developed and is producing what it hopes to be a market disrupting gene testing system with very favourable economics for its users.
The company’s first product is the GENIUS 110 System, which will enable customers to replace an expensive and time-consuming sample preparation and sequencing bottleneck with a streamlined workflow for Next Generation Sequencing. The patented GENIUS system integrates advanced fluidics and analytical capabilities to produce sample-to-answer performance for DNA and RNA sequencing, while dramatically reducing capital and operating expenses.
About Yuri Milner
Yuri Milner, age 52, is a Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He founded investment firms Mail.ru Group and DST Global. Through these two companies he is an investor in Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Alibaba and other high tech success stories.
According to Forbes he has a personal net worth of US$1.1billion at March 2103, and ranks #1, 268 on their list of the world’s billionaires.
In 2012 he was included in the 50 Most Influential List by Bloomberg Markets Magazine. The Magazine Foreign Policy also included Yuri in its Power List – an inaugural list of 500 most powerful people on the planet released in May, 2013. Impressive stuff.
Yuri trained as a particle physicist, and he has given US$3 million prizes to each of nine theoretical physicists and later announced two more “special” US$3 million prizes: one to Stephen Hawking and one split between a number of people who played important roles in this year’s Higgs Boson discovery at CERN.
Milner, along with Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg, is also a backer of the Breakthough Prize, which aims to reward researchers and doctors who make discoveries in the life sciences.
Yuri is married to Julia and they have two daughters.