23andMe raises nearly $600m in its stock market debut

18 Jun 2021

Image: © michelmond/Stock.adobe.com

The genetics and DNA testing firm is now valued at $3.5bn following a merger with Richard Branson’s blank cheque company.

23andMe went public on the Nasdaq by merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) set up by Virgin’s Richard Branson.

The gene testing company raised nearly $600m in its stock market debut, which valued the company at $3.5bn.

Set up in 2006, 23andMe develops at-home genetics and DNA testing kits and has been one of the companies at the forefront of this sector.

It announced its plans back in February to merge with Branson’s VG Acquisition Corp to bring the company public. Chief executive Anne Wojcicki will continue to lead the newly merged company.

“Over 11m people have joined 23andMe and are part of the community that is using genetics to transform how we diagnose, treat and prevent human disease,” she said. “As we enter the next phase as a public company, we have the opportunity to expand our impact by bringing personalised healthcare directly to everyone.”

Branson was previously an investor in 23andMe before striking the SPAC deal earlier this year.

“There are huge growth opportunities ahead, and with Anne and the rest of the incredible management team at the helm, I’m confident they will continue to innovate and disrupt the industry, creating a lasting impact on many people’s lives,” Branson said.

23andMe is just one in a long line of large companies that have opted for the SPAC route to going public.

Blank cheque firms, which are already listed on a stock exchange, have proven very popular as a means to go public without the hurdles and paperwork of an initial public offering. WeWork and Grab among others have opted for this route.

The US markets have been more accommodating to SPACs. Most recently British health-tech company Babylon Health announced plans to go public on the Nasdaq in a $4.2bn merger, rather than pursue a listing in London.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin