Edico Genome: Sequencing Genomes 30X Faster

Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN) has been a resounding success story for disruptive technology investors. Since their IPO in 2000, the company has returned over +813% in share price appreciation for investors. Those who would have bought Illumina exactly 10 years ago when the share price was depressed would have realized a staggering +2,146% increase in share price. So what drove this success? The answer is genome sequencing.

According to Francis de Souza, president of Illumina, over 228,000 human genomes have been completely sequenced by researchers around the globe so far. Illumina estimates that this number will double about every 12 months, reaching 1.6 million genomes by 2017. Illumina machines now account for more than 90 percent of all DNA data produced. The trend now is moving from a focus on cost reduction to a focus on usability, simplification, and speed.

At the end of 2014, Illumina held $1.3 billion in cash. It’s not a far stretch to think that Illumina may use some of these funds to acquire early-stage companies that are complimenting their product offerings. One such company is Edico Genome.

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Founded in 2013, San Diego based Edico Genome has taken in $10 million in funding so far from lead investor Qualcomm Ventures to develop their DRAGEN Bio-IT Processor, the world’s first next-generation sequencing (NGS) bioinformatics application-specific integrated circuit. So what does that mean exactly?

When sequencing your genome, we’re able to identify all the unique genetic attributes that make you who you are. This information can be used to provide you with personalized medicine. Did you know that genetic disorders are the leading cause of death in newborn babies? If we are able to quickly sequence the genome of a newborn baby, we can then treat whatever genetic disorder it is afflicted with. This is where the need for speed comes into play.

Sequencing a single genome generates around 350 gigabytes of data that then needs to be processed. Edico has developed a computer hardware solution with processing speeds that are orders of magnitude faster than any other methods. The device comes in the form of a PCIe form-factor card that slots into one of the expansion slots on your computer’s motherboard:

Dragen_Processor

It’s important to note that the Dragen processor does not compete with gene sequencing hardware companies like Illumina, but instead complements them. Running a whole human genome pipeline on the DRAGEN platform reduces the time required for analyzing a genome by 30x from ~10 hours using the current industry standard ~20 minutes with improved accuracy. DRAGEN also reduces costs related to storage space and IT infrastructure, which is estimated to result in a savings of up to $6 million over four years for customers using Illumina’s HiSeq X Ten instruments. The Dragen is said to perform the same tasks in the same amount of time as 50 computer servers. In summary, the many benefits of Dragen include:

Dragen_Benefits

So it’s faster, better and cheaper? Done. How do I buy one?

Edico Genome is currently selling the Dragen with the first one being sold to Sequenom in September of last year. The Company continues to build up their IP portfolio to protect their creation with patents like a broad one issued this year titled “Bioinformatics Systems, Apparatuses, and Methods Executed on an Integrated Circuit Processing Platform“. The device does not just involve hardware, but also proprietary algorithms which are optimized for their chip architecture.

It’s not a stretch to think that Edico Genome could be acquired by Illumina, or even Intel for that matter. Retail investors would be much more excited to see an IPO for some pure play exposure to this technology, but the biotech IPO window may have already closed as we enter 2016.

Update: 05/05/2018 – Edico Genome was acquired by Illumina for $100 million.

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