Global investors in Genomics Medicine Ireland are behind the drive to make the country a global genomics and life sciences research hub.
Up to 600 jobs spanning research, informatics, data science, software and medicine are to be created in Ireland as part of a $400m (€350m) investment in Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI).
In an investment involving the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) as well as international investors WuXi NextCode, Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, Temasek, Yunfeng Capital and Sequoia Capital, Dublin will become a global hub for genomics research.
‘The value this creates for disease research globally cannot be underestimated’
– ANNE JONES
The investment will create up to 600 high-value jobs over five years and will position GMI as the cornerstone for a Silicon Docks-modelled International Centre for Advanced Life Sciences (ICALS).
Under the terms of the investment, $225m (about €197m) will be committed to GMI in the near term, increasing to $400m in line with the achievement of milestones as GMI expands and as ICALS develops in the medium term.
A genomic future beyond pharma
GMI, currently based in Cherrywood in Dublin, is creating a scientific platform to examine the human genome in order to better understand the role of genetics in disease and rare conditions, leading to new prevention strategies and treatments. The company was founded in Ireland in 2015 by a group of leading life sciences entrepreneurs, investors and researchers.
The CEO of GMI, Anne Jones, told Siliconrepublic.com that the investment will underpin one of the world’s largest wholesale genome sequencing programmes. The programme will target participation from 400,000 volunteers – or one in every 10 people in Ireland – including patients with a range of common and rare diseases.
“We are doing whole genome sequencing, and the fact that the population of Ireland is relatively homogeneous – which makes key genes easier to identify – makes it a valuable resource. The value this creates for disease research globally cannot be underestimated,” Jones said.
She added that efforts to cure more than 60 different disease types will benefit from the research. This will help to deliver healthcare benefits to Irish patients and create a unique platform for research and discovery of new precision medicines for the treatment of life-limiting conditions that currently have no cure.
As well as finding cures, the work of GMI and WuXi NextCode’s genomics platform could in turn be leveraged to attract more investment and make Ireland a global life sciences hub in areas that include multiomics, bioinformatics, precision medicine development, genetics services, digital health, cloud computing and high-performance computing, and AI.
The potential for Ireland as an ICALS can be seen from the experience of San Diego, California, which has a comparable population of about 3.3m people. San Diego has built an entire ecosystem around genomics and related life sciences sectors, yielding a $33.6bn economic impact through more than 1,225 life sciences companies and 80 independent and university-affiliated research institutes, together employing 37,790 people.
Early-stage discussions to fund a genomics accelerator are also already underway, targeting further development of Ireland’s ecosystem in this field to support new start-ups and early-stage companies with similar specialist skills and research capabilities.
Rob Brainin, CEO of WuXi NextCode, told Siliconrepublic.com: “Fundamentally, we see ICALS as forming the nucleus of a major ecosystem around life sciences that includes data centres, statisticians and data scientists, and it can contribute a number of significant healthcare aspects.”
Brainin said that the potential impact of the programme will be global as well as creating a spawning ground for a community of globally focused start-ups. “We will be working with disease specialists and correlating the data with other medical information to drive the biological discovery journey forward.”
Paul Saunders, senior investment director at ISIF, said that the GMI investment fits with the fund’s mandate to support economic activity and employment while seeking a commercial return.
“When we made the Series A investment into GMI, it was built on a vision that Ireland could develop a leadership position in genomics and life science. This was based on the rationale that the skills base was here, the data and data analytics capability is here, and genomics research marks the convergence of key sectors such as IT with medicine.”
The $400m investment in GMI follows on from the recent announcement by WuXi NextCode’s sister company, WuXi Biologics, which is establishing a state-of-the-art biopharma facility in Dundalk that will create more than 400 jobs, supported by IDA Ireland.
GMI’s vision to make Ireland a global hub for life sciences and genomics research was welcomed by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD. “GMI’s success is a reflection on the wider success of Ireland as a location for the life sciences industry for more than 50 years,” he said.
“24 of the world’s largest pharma and biotech companies are located here, creating valuable employment and contributing to our economic success. As a country, we have continuously worked to attract and retain investment from the life sciences sector, and we are now positioning for the next wave of knowledge-driven innovation being led by the genomics industry, and the economic benefits that will bring.
“With this partnership between GMI, ISIF and WuXi NextCode, we are creating an ecosystem of expertise in advanced life sciences right here in Ireland. That, in turn, will ultimately deliver better health and wellness management to people and patients in Ireland, and turn the advances we make here into benefits for people around the world.”