Business Model Analysis
Helix is enabling healthcare providers to integrate genomics data into clinical care. We analyze the company's funding, business model, customer acquisition strategy, market size, and competitors.
Genomics startup Helix was founded in 2015 to build an “app store for DNA.” Consumers could mail in a saliva swab, have their genome sequenced once, and then could pay for a variety of analyses — on ancestry, fitness, health, nutrition, and more — done by third-party vendors on the app store, while still maintaining ownership of their own genetic data.
As the market for direct-to-consumer genomics has waned, in part due to increased FDA regulation, Helix has pivoted to partner with healthcare providers in order to provide genetic risk screening services to patients. More recently, Helix has leveraged its next-generation sequencing capabilities to quickly scale a Covid-19 testing lab.
We analyze Helix’s:
- Funding history
- Business model & traction
- Customer acquisition strategies
- Market size
Helix has raised $400M+
Helix was spun out of sequencing giant Illumina in 2015 with $100M in funding from Warburg Pincus, Sutter Hill Ventures, Mayo Clinic, and Illumina. The company began by building an “app store” for consumers to utilize their DNA, but more recently has switched to a healthcare provider-focused model.
Helix raised $85M in 2016 from the same group of investors, and added Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Temasek, and DJF Growth Fund to its backers in 2018 with a $200M Series B round.
In July 2020, Helix was awarded a $33M grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to scale its Covid-19 testing capabilities.
Business model & traction
Helix pivots its business model toward healthcare providers
The consumer genomics market has slowed over the past few years as the early adopter wave has thinned and the FDA has increased its oversight.
Helix’s proprietary Exome+ assay, which sequences the entire protein-coding region of the genome (~20,000 genes), reportedly yields 100x more information than common microarrays used by most competitors. This has enabled the company to quickly pivot to partnering with healthcare providers to enable genetic testing for their patient populations, rather than selling directly to individual consumers.
To support this transition, Helix changed CEOs from the consumer-focused Robin Thurston to Marc Stapley, who was previously EVP at Illumina, in April 2019.
The shift to a clinical support model, where Helix serves patients by way of their healthcare providers, has created new value for both Helix and its customers. Providers can leverage Helix’s genomics platform to identify at-risk patients and save long-term disease management costs.
Renown Institute for Health Innovation, for example, has partnered with Helix to sequence 40,000 individuals in its Healthy Nevada Project. To date, 1 in 75 participants have had actionable genetic risks, 90% of which would have been missed by traditional screening guidelines.
Providers also pay for the end-to-end genomics platform and testing is typically free, covered by insurance, or offered at a low cost to patients. This model has the potential to generate long-term savings for a health system by encouraging preventative care and improving patient engagement. In the same Healthy Nevada Project, 40% of participants had their first healthcare visit within 6 months of being sequenced.