Before Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Clark [see p.35] mentioned his newest investment to the media this summer, few outside the venture capital community knew that Kiva Genetics had (a) raised $75 million, (b) changed its name to DNA Sciences, and (c) staked out the cyber spot DNA.com. But two days after its August 1 “hard launch” (Clark’s announcement in mid-July was the “soft launch”), DNA Sciences was “overwhelmed” by hits to its website by “ordinary citizens,” according to CEO Hugh Rienhoff.
The hook? DNA Sciences wants to help regular folks make a difference to medical science. The company seeks tens of thousands of volunteers to submit DNA samples to which it will apply what Rienhoff calls the “largest genotyping capacity on earth” to identify SNPs. Profits will come from selling the resulting data.
By year’s end DNA Sciences will occupy a 64,000-square-foot building and process 100,000 genotypes a day on a 24/7 schedule. Ultimately, the facility will churn out 1 million genotypes per day, Rienhoff claims.
The technology? DNA Sciences’ own “next generation genotyping microchannel device,” a farm of modified Amersham Pharmacia Biotech MegaBace sequencing machines, and proprietary software that tracks and integrates anonymous samples, electropherograms, and accounting data.
And if the plan doesn’t work out, there’s a backup. Rienhoff says the company is also seeking a partner to commercialize the microchannel device.