Introducing our first investment in genomics, Gencove – making genomic data accessible and useful

By Angela, July 11, 2017

Today, we’re excited to announce our first investment in the genomics space. We welcome Gencove to the Version One portfolio: they’re making genomics accessible and useful to all.

We first met Joe Pickrell, the founder of Gencove, a year ago when he shared that he was building an inexpensive technology that actually sequences the genome as opposed to genotyping it.

If you’re not sure about the distinction: genotyping is the process of determining which genetic variants an individual possesses. It requires prior knowledge of identifying variants of interest. Sequencing is the process of determining the exact sequence of a certain length of DNA. You can sequence the whole genome or parts of it. Depending on the “region”, a given stretch of sequence may include some DNA that varies between individuals as well as some that are constant. Hence, sequencing can be used to genotype someone for known variants but also to identify variants that may be unique to that person.

Here’s a simple analogy: genotyping would be like pointing out the differences in two books, while sequencing is reading the books. The latter is more comprehensive and as you can imagine, also more costly.

At the time we first talked, not only had Joe and his team (Tomaz Berisa and Kaja Wasik) created a genome sequencing method which could go to market for $50 (compared to $1000 by everyone else), they had also developed a beautiful mobile app with the intent of going after the consumer market. We admittedly had our apprehensions of competing against Ancestry and 23andMe, who despite not actually sequencing the genome (they’re genotyping solutions), already had significant mindshare.

Six months passed and we reconnected in February. We were quick to invest alongside Third Kind Venture CapitalRefactor CapitalSV Angel, and Kresimir Penavic. The Gencove team has since uncovered an incredible B2B opportunity: building out tools to interface with their API to create infrastructure for the seamless flow of genomic data. Companies creating the next generation of ancestry, microbiome, and other genomics products should not have to build a lab from scratch; they should be able to focus on their own expertise and let customers bring genomic data directly to them.

In other words, Gencove offers a full stack API for genomic data – from sample collection to sequencing, processing to interpretation. It’s lab kit to results!

This is all incredibly exciting. So much of future research and breakthroughs in healthcare will depend on how we can affordably collect, store, process and interpret data.

We are at the beginning of unlocking the potential of genomics and much of the value is rooted in the amount of data we can uncover with the advancement of this technology. Gencove can collect the data and help interpret it, so that companies and research groups don’t need to incur this overhead themselves.

At Version One, one of our core beliefs is the democratization of knowledge. We’ve written before about the importance of increased accessibility, distribution, inclusion, productivity and collaboration to improve the lives of all. Access to genomics data seems to be the precursor and enabler for more affordable healthcare.

Lastly, while we are still in the very early stages in this field, we are definitely at a tipping point given that today’s computing power and storage are making it possible to do all this affordably. Imagine a future where genomic data is ubiquitous. At this point, we can’t even predict all the possibilities. Just like back in the Mainframe era, no one could have anticipated that it would lead to the PC to mobile, etc., which now drives everything that we do.

We’re thrilled to welcome Joe, Tomaz, and Kaja to the Version One family. To learn more, visit https://app.gencove.com.

  • Congratulations on getting the deal done! The possibilities of this sort of technology are endless. Thanks for sharing.

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