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January 9, 2015

WuXi Snaps Up NextCODE Health for $65M

  • Fifteen months after it was spun out of deCODE Genetics by Amgen with $15 million in venture capital, NextCODE Health has been acquired by WuXi PharmaTech for $65 million, expanding the Chinese R&D services company into the proverbial clinic by bringing it added genomic analysis and bioinformatics capabilities.

    WuXi said it plans to merge NextCODE Health and WuXi's Genome Center into a new company to be named WuXi NextCODE Genomics. The business will be headquartered in Shanghai, with operations in Cambridge, MA, and Reykjavik, Iceland.

    WuXi said the merged company will broaden and enhances its existing genomic laboratory services for biopharmaceutical research and clinical development, as well as NextCODE's unique capabilities in genome analysis.

    The merged company, WuXi added, will also be capable of providing customers of both partners with comprehensive genomic and bioinformatic capabilities—from CLIA-certified whole genome and whole exome sequencing to the analysis and interpretation of that sequencing data necessary to provide effective diagnosis and treatment.

    WuXi also noted that the acquisition will broaden its customer base to include doctors and patients, after 14 years of primarily serving global biopharmas and medical device customers.

    "With the huge unmet medical needs in diseases with a genetic component and the rapid advances in genomics and bioinformatics, now is the right time for WuXi to make a strategic investment in this field, and NextCODE is the right partner," Ge Li, Ph.D., WuXi’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement.”

    Dr. Li will also serve as CEO of NextCODE Genomics. The newly merged company has also named Edward Hu as its CFO; NextCODE co-founder and CEO Hannes Smarason, a former CFO of deCODE, as COO; NextCODE co-founder, president, and CSO Jeffrey Gulcher, M.D., Ph.D., as CSO; Hongye Sun, Ph.D., as CTO, and Hakon Gudbjartsson, Ph.D., as VP Informatics.

    NextCODE Health has sought to enable clinicians and researchers to use next-generation sequencing data to better diagnose and treat diseases. The company says its solutions combine the only whole genome analysis system developed at population scale with access to the world’s largest clinical genetics reference database.

    WuXi established its Genome Center in 2011 to provide next-generation sequencing to academics, the life science industry, and medical institutions, with 10 Illumina HiSeq X sequencing machines in operation. The center’s genomics lab also provides assay development, validation, and testing services.

    The center says it offers drug developers a complete solution stretching from target discovery and preclinical and clinical development to personalized medicine, through its integration with WuXi AppTec's full range of discovery and development services. The center is China’s only CLIA-certified clinical genomics laboratory.

    NextCODE was spun out of Amgen in October 2013 through a $15 million Series A financing round led by Arch Venture Partners and Polaris Partners. NextCODE has an exclusive five-year license secured from Amgen for sequence-based clinical diagnostic applications using technology developed by deCODE genetics, the personalized medicine platform developer that Amgen acquired for $415 million in December 2012.

    Arch and Polaris joined to acquire deCODE and its assets for $14 million—$11 million in debt, the rest cash—then took the company private, after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. The company had piled up more than $300 million in debt as Iceland, followed by the U.S. and many Western nations, plunged into financial crisis the previous year.

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