On July 11, 2017, Ontario Genomics hosted San Francisco-based Illumina Accelerator in Toronto, in partnership with MaRS Discovery District. Due to the overwhelming response from the community, the breakfast kick-off event was sold out, with over 150 participants. This inaugural visit of Illumina Accelerator to Toronto featured Amanda Cashin, Head of Illumina Accelerator, and Alex Robertson, Canadian Business Development Manager.
The Illumina Accelerator is the world’s first business accelerator focused solely on creating an innovation ecosystem for the genomics industry. The Accelerator operates on a 6-month funding cycle, during which each small cohort of start-ups receives access to capital, is housed at Illumina’s Mission Bay facility, has access to sequencing and other equipment, and receives coaching and mentorship from Illumina’s network of industry experts.
The day-long event started with introductory presentations by Alex Robertson and Amanda Cashin on the state of genomic sequencing technologies, Illumina and the Accelerator. Mid-day, Amanda and Alex spent lunchtime with 10 graduate and undergraduate students discussing careers in genomics and describing their own career paths. For the remainder of the day, Illumina held pre-arranged 1×1 meetings with 15 companies and academics interested in joining the accelerator or partnering with Illumina. Because they were not able to accommodate all requests for meetings due to time constraints, we are confident this bodes well for a return visit in the not-to-distant future.
Following the visit, Amanda Cashin commented: “This visit gave us at Illumina a great first-hand perspective on the amazing and collaborative genomics community you have here in Toronto. We’ve had the opportunity to start developing a network here with researchers, VCs, start-ups and we hope to see an Ontario company inducted into the Accelerator in an upcoming cohort.”
Ontario Genomics funds and actively supports early stage innovative genomic technologies that are invented and developed in the Province of Ontario. The organization works with top-tier researchers with leading-edge ideas, at the time when they begin thinking about forming companies and commercializing their innovations. “For many of these young entrepreneurs and companies, the best next step to creating value is to work with experienced genomics industry veterans and to receive the support required to put their technologies on a trajectory that will lead to commercial success in tomorrow’s genomics market,” said Ihor Boszko, VP of Business Development at Ontario Genomics. “It seemed obvious, that we should reach out to Illumina Accelerator to develop a relationship that would benefit Ontario start-ups and our genomics ecosystem.”