Genome sequencing company Ultima Genomics has come out of stealth and announced $600 million in financing. Founded in 2016 by its Israeli CEO Gilad Almogy, the company has 350 employees including 50 in Israel at development centers in Rehovot and Hod Hasharon, and remarkably has managed to prevent any leaks of information from its employees, investors and development centers.
The company has now revealed that it has developed a sequencing machine, which it claims, backed up by research set to be published in leading scientific periodicals, allows genome sequencing for $100, compared with the $500-600 it costs using its rival Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN). In addition, Ultima Genomics claims that its genomic sequencing is faster and deeper - in other words, it provides more data about the genome, more quickly.
The benefits of these improvements, which are allowed through patents that the company has not yet revealed, are mainly in two directions. Through this technology, the company estimates and hopes, it will be possible to achieve genome sequencing even down to single cells, and thus diagnose illnesses even earlier than at present, mainly cancer. In addition, sequencing that is cheaper, faster and richer in information, will allow much quicker progress in projects that compare the genetics of the actual morbidity of large numbers of people, in order to map the genes involved in various diseases.
Sources at Ultima Genomics say that the reason for the secrecy over the years was the desire to reach the point where the company could prove its product, before making any announcements. The company also preferred not to stir up its rivals, mainly Illumina.
Ultima Genomics CEO and founder Gilad Almogy is a graduate of the IDF's Talpiot science and leadership program. Almogy is today resident in the US. He was a senior vice president at Applied Materials before founding solar energy company Cogenra Solar in 2009, which was acquired by SunPower in 2015. In late 2016, Almogy founded Ultima.
Almogy said, "DNA is nature's storage media and the instruction set for every living organism, yet with current technologies, we can't access that information at the scale needed to truly understand complex biology. Our architecture is intended for radical scaling, and the $100 genome is merely the first example of what it can deliver. We are committed to continuously drive down the cost of genomic information until it is routinely used in every part of the healthcare system."
Ultima Genomics CSO Doron Lipson added, "Scientists and clinicians continuously make tradeoffs between the breadth, depth, and frequency of genomic information they collect. By overcoming the limitations of conventional next-generation sequencing technologies, researchers can now design experiments and clinical assays that were previously impossible."
One of the first investors in Ultima Genomics was Israeli billionaire and Check Point founder Marius Nacht, who is also a graduate of the IDF's Talpiot program. Nqcht founded the aMoon healthtech and life science investment fund, initially investing his own assets before becoming an independent fund, which in recent years raised a $750 million growth fund. aMoon has also invested in Ultima Genomics.
Other investors in Ultima Genomics include D1 Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, General Atlantic, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed, Playground Global, and Founders Fund.
Full disclosure: Marius Nacht is the former life partner of Anat Agmon, part of the controlling shareholders in "Globes." They are involved in a personal and economic dispute
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 2, 2022.
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