Promises of a next-gen sequencing approach earn Element Biosciences a hefty Series C. Is an IPO next?
It took more than a decade and billions of dollars for scientists to sequence the first human genome back in 2003. While DNA sequencing costs much less today, a slew of companies is working on next-gen approaches to save researchers time and money. Element Biosciences is one of them, and on Tuesday, the company unveiled a $276 million round.
The Series C brings Element’s total raise to about $400 million. While the company declined an interview with Endpoints News, it appears as though CEO Molly He could have the company’s S-1 papers in her back pocket.
“Element will provide researchers with innovative technology choices and more flexible tools for scientific exploration,” He said in a statement. “We are working to realize our vision of dramatically expanding access to high quality, low cost, easy-to-use genomics tools.”
The San Diego-based biotech was founded in 2017, and secured $15 million in its first round of funding two years later. That same year, it moved into a new 30,000 square-foot facility on the Alexandria GradLabs campus, bordering the University of California, San Diego.
The company says it has developed a platform that “reinvents all aspects” of DNA sequencing, according to chairman John Stuelpnagel, from surface chemistry to detection to data analysis. The team raked in an $80 million Series B round in January 2020, then added another $30 million to that last June.
“While the market is rapidly growing, it is still challenging for individual labs to access such reliable tools without a significant amount of capital and operating knowledge. The genomics industry needs more competitive players to accelerate research and discovery,” Element announced at the time.
By 2006, the cost to generate a high-quality ‘draft’ human genome sequence had dropped to about $14 million, according to the NIH. And by late 2015, that figure had fallen below $1,500.
A slate of new and old investors chipped in on the round, including Janus Henderson Investors, Logos Capital, Meritech Capital Partners, Counterpoint Global (Morgan Stanley), T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Foresite Capital, JS Capital Management, RA Capital Advisors, and Venrock.
“With a combination of Element’s proprietary technologies and the latest developments in these respective areas, we have developed a flexible, modular, and high-performing sequencing platform,” He said in January 2020.
Element is one of a series of biotechs working on easy-to-use, low cost genomics tools. Promises of a next-gen sequencing approach earned Omniome — first founded by ex-Illumina employee Kandaswamy (Swamy) Vijayan in 2013 — a $60 million Series C round early last year. Last May, Roche acquired Stratos Genomics, a Seattle-based developer of a new DNA technology designed to make genetic strands more easy to read. Back in 2019, Genapsys unveiled its 9.5-pound device aimed at making DNA sequencing faster and cheaper, and challenging heavyweight rival Illumina. This May, it pulled in $70 million in Series D equity financing. And the same month, Oxford Nanopore, a longtime investor favorite to challenge Illumina, scored $273 million for its “scalable” DNA and RNA sequencing tech.