Global syndicate backs $400M genomics R&D play in Ireland as WuXi NextCODE extends its reach into Europe
The big push to translate fresh mounds of genomics data into new meds got a significant boost today as an international syndicate of investors from the US, China, Ireland and Singapore backed Wuxi NextCODE’s plan to add a major European sequencing initiative and hub-building project to their global network.
The tech outfit is making 3-year-old Genomics Medicine Ireland a subsidiary, with financial backing totting up to $400 million to see through an effort to sequence the genomes of 400,000 residents in Ireland — about 10% of the population — in search of insights into the way specific genes influence disease.
Included in this project is a genomics accelerator looking to help spur a life sciences hub that they believe can grow into something along the lines of San Diego. And the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund is putting up $70 million of the initial $225 million budget with an eye to directly creating hundreds of jobs — with more to follow if they can ramp up the hub.
That’s a tall order. Ireland has some biotechs, but its involvement in the industry is largely centered on manufacturing and its rep as a global corporate tax haven. Whatever becomes of the hub dream, though, big sequencing efforts have attracted the attention of a broad swathe of biopharma players, including Amgen and Regeneron, with GSK recently jumping into a collaboration with 23andMe.
Alongside the Ireland project, WuXi NextCODE put together a $200 million C round — just a little more than a year after it added $240 million from the Series B.
The transglobal financial syndicate around this WuXi deal says a lot about the connections that can command large sums for marquee plans like this.
US-based Arch Venture Partners, which has close ties to Ge Li’s global ops at Shanghai-based WuXi, linked up with the early-stage investors at Polaris, Singapore’s Temasek and China’s Yunfeng Capital and Sequoia Capital to back the play. And they have the money to make a host of startups a reality if the initiative delivers on plans to create a hub built around advanced AI, new tech and R&D.
“The success of this financing round is an endorsement of our strategy to create the leading global platform for using the genome to improve the lives of people and patients everywhere,” said Rob Brainin, CEO of WuXi NextCODE. “This phase of our growth has a distinctly Irish focus to it, and we are creating in Ireland the world’s premier genome dataset as a uniquely powerful engine both for transforming how we discover new drugs, as well as for bringing new diagnostics, risk screens and other tools and services to the individual patients.”