PayPal co-founder and Founders Fund Managing Partner Luke Nosek is tackling a new field: DNA sequencing. Nosek sent out an email (which we’ve pasted below) saying that he has joined Halcyon Molecular, a human genome sequencing firm, as founding president.
According to the email, Halcyon will sequence complete human genomes in less than ten minutes and for less than $100. This is significant drop in price and time from existing genome sequencing labs that take weeks and thousands of dollars to process DNA. Nosek writes that he will continue to lead The Founders Fund’s genomics investing, but his primary role will be leading and advising Halcyon as the company progresses and readies for launch. Nosek adds that Peter Thiel, fellow co-founder of PayPal and Managing Partner at Founders Fund will be joining Halcyon’s board.
When Halcyon Molecular finally launches, its pricing and timing could be revolutionary. 23andme, which reads and tests parts of the human genome and was co-founded by Sergey Brin’s wife Anne Wojcicki, is similar in theory. But 23andme doesn’t do a full genome scan, which Halcyon promises to do, but rather looks at SNPs, which are regions of high variability in the human genome.
This summer I joined as Founding President of Halcyon Molecular, an extraordinary company which has developed a technology for sequencing DNA vastly more quickly, completely, accurately, and cheaply than ever. Ultimately, Halcyon will sequence 100% complete human genomes in less than 10 minutes and for less than $100. Current methods, which take weeks, sequence only about 90% of the genome, and cost from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on completeness.
Because only a handful of human genomes have been sequenced (and none completely), statistically significant insights have been hard to come by. If genetic research doesn’t seemed to have lived up to its therapeutic promise, it’s because sequencing is just too slow and expensive. With Halcyon’s technology, the pool of genetic information will grow by orders of magnitude in the course of months, offering the first real chance at cures for cancer and other previously intractable diseases. With full sequencing and analysis of millions of genomes, biology can begin to turn into an information science and travel down the path of Moore’s law. While we have 10X better computers and video games every ten years, we do not have 10X better cancer cures and we do not really understand what causes the major killer diseases of the first world other than the cop-out term “aging”. We must change this.
Halcyon’s progress has been rapid in the months since I joined. We have:
· Raised significantly more capital than we need
· Hired world leaders in biochemistry, nanofabrication, and electron microscopy
· Expanded our academic collaborations with Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley
· Received a $2 million dollar aberration corrected STEM electron microscope on loan from the Department of Energy
Founders Fund and myself have made a significant bet on this firm, perhaps the most significant since our investment in Facebook. I have joined as President and moved closer to Halcyon’s future offices in Stanford Research Park to work intensively with the team (I maintain my board seats on SpaceX, Pathway Genomics, and continue to lead Founders Fund’s genomics investing as well). Peter Thiel also joined the board to lend his expertise. But ultimately Halcyon needs the greatest scientists and engineers in the world to succeed in its mission. I know that exceptional people are hard to come by, but of all the Founders Fund companies that have, or have the potential to change the world – Facebook, SpaceX, Palantir, e.g. – Halcyon is the one with the chance to do so in the most profound way possible. It is truly vital that it work.
I want to stress that this is the most talented team I have ever worked with. This is not a job for your best friend’s brother-in-law. Halcyon people have put aside and left their homes, their million dollar salaries, full professorships at major universities, and fully seed-funded startup companies to be part of this effort.
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