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Startup Ultima Genomics Emerges With $600M in Funding, New Sequencer, Claims of $100 Genome

NEW YORK – Ultima Genomics, a sequencing technology startup that had been operating in stealth mode, said on Tuesday that it has raised $600 million in funding.

In addition, the Newark, California-based firm claimed it can deliver a human genome for $100, but did not provide any details.

Investors in the financing round included General Atlantic, Andreessen Horowitz, D1 Capital, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed, Marius Nacht, aMoon, Playground Global, and Founders Fund.

In a statement, the firm said the Broad Institute has produced data from more than 200 whole human genomes on its UG 100 platform under an early-access program. Other early-access users have tested additional sequencing applications, including single-cell RNA sequencing, perturbation screens, Hi-C chromosome conformation assays, whole-genome methylation sequencing, and deep whole-genome sequencing of cell-free circulating tumor DNA.

Ultima promised more information on these applications in forthcoming BioRxiv preprints and presentations at next week's Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference. However, the firm did not immediately respond to a request for additional details on its technology and claims of a $100 genome.

"The latest advances in biomedical research require an increasingly larger scale of sequencing," Jonathan Weissman, a researcher at the Whitehead Institute and an early-access partner, said in a statement. "We have seen the quality of Ultima Genomics sequencing in millions of single cells, and now are initiating even larger experiments that weren't previously feasible."

Ultima also announced partnerships with Sentieon and Google DeepVariant to provide variant calling. The partners have developed specific machine-learning models for Ultima's platform. Ultima will offer early-access customers a Sentieon license to process data at no cost through the end of 2022. Financial and other terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

"During our collaboration, we've already seen significant improvements in sequencing quality and look forward to continued optimization of our solutions," Sentieon CEO Jun Ye said in a statement.

Ultima joins several other startups offering alternatives to Illumina's short-read sequencing platforms, such as Element Biosciences and Singular Genomics Systems, as well as PacBio's short-read platform acquired from Omniome.

The company said it has invented new approaches to flow cell engineering, sequencing chemistry, and machine learning. It has received approximately $4.2 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health since 2019.

"Our architecture is intended for radical scaling, and the $100 genome is merely the first example of what it can deliver," Ultima CEO and Cofounder Gilad Almogy said in a statement. "We are committed to continuously drive down the cost of genomic information until it is routinely used in every part of the healthcare system."