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Helix Expands Real-World and Online Footprint with HumanCode Deal

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Helix, which runs an online outlet for products based on customer DNA, has bought HumanCode, one of the app makers that contributes to its store. Denver-based HumanCode makes BabyGlimpse, which shows couples genetic traits that they might pass on to their children; and DNA Passport, which the company calls a “starter kit” to explore one’s own genetic code.

San Carlos, CA-based Helix did not say how much it is paying for HumanCode. The deal reunites Helix’s CEO Robin Thurston and HumanCode’s executive team. HumanCode CEO Chris Glode and VP of engineering Ryan Trunck were with Thurston at the fitness app maker MapMyFitness. They sold it to sportswear giant Under Armour in 2013 for up to $150 million, and there they met another eventual cofounder of HumanCode, Jennifer Lescallett, who was working with DNA analysis chip maker Affymetrix at the time.

In 2015, Helix spun out of Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), a world leader in DNA sequencing machines, with $100 million in funding. It uses its parent company’s machines to analyze customer’s exomes, the portion of the genetic code that produces proteins.

Helix customers only send their DNA once, via a saliva sample. Helix stores it and hands over the relevant code to app developers each time a customer orders a new product.

Most products sold through Helix, like the $50 and $70 HumanCode apps, are not medical guides. Since most people buy DNA kits to learn about their ancestry, Helix wants to tap into that curiosity and sell consumer apps and other products like scarves patterned after a customer’s DNA. It recently raised another $200 million from high-profile investors to expand its store, which currently has six categories: entertainment, family, fitness, health, nutrition, and ancestry.

Helix says it will retain the entire HumanCode staff and Helix will open an office in Denver. HumanCode CEO Glode will become Helix chief product officer. Helix has also brought on new chief financial and marketing officers recently.