Verogen is a private equity-backed company that specializes in forensic DNA technology, software, and services. The San Diego firms’s primary business targets the forensic markets from specialist crime laboratories to routine forensic services.
Customers of GEDmatch, a provider of genealogy and ancestry DNA analysis, were surprised when it was purchased by Verogen in 2019. That was only two years after Verogen was founded. The question for many wary genealogy hobbyists was: who owns Verogen?
Who Owns Verogen?
Verogen is owned by DNA chip giant Illumina and venture capital firm Telegraph Hill Partners (THP). The company was spun out of San Diego-based Illumina with a complete transfer of their forensics department to a new and independent company. Verogen joins a portfolio of life science companies managed by San Francisco-based THP.
Verogen was founded in 2017 as a private company, independent of Illumina. However, the new company was given exclusive rights to some of Illumina’s technologies and software. And as most of the staff, including senior management, transferred from Illumina, it’s fair to say that the two companies retain a deep connection.
However, THP’s involvement may end up with Verogen moving in a different direction. The usual goal of an equity investment firm is to benefit from the acquisition or IPO of their investments. And THP has quite a successful track record in this regard. I discuss their portfolio and the implications in a later section.
Illumina, Co-Owner Of Verogen
Illumina is a leader in technology and services for DNA sequencing.
If you’ve purchased a consumer DNA kit from one of the major testing companies, your DNA has been processed using Illumina’s DNA chip arrays. Illumina’s customers include these companies:
- Family Tree DNA
- Living DNA
But consumer DNA testing is a relatively small part of Illumina’s business. The company is heavily involved in DNA sequencing for disease identification and drug development. And until 2017, they had a growing business line in the forensics market.
So, why Illumina create Verogen in 2017? The answer will go a long way to explain Verogen’s later purchase of GEDmatch. If you want to know more about the latter company, we have an article on who owns GEDmatch. We cover the current and previous owners of the consumer DNA analysis website.
If you want to know more about Illumina, we’ve also looked at that company’s history. Check out our article on who founded Illumina.
Verogen And The Forensics DNA Market
Illumina had an entire division devoted to forensic DNA analysis. By 2017, they had successfully introduced their DNA sequencing technology and software into the larger specialist crime laboratories in the United States.
However, smaller U.S. labs conducting routine forensic analysis still used older sequencing technologies. The international market for forensics was also growing quickly.
Illumina gave Verogen exclusive licenses for their sequencing technology and software. Verogen’s initial mission was to expand and grow Illumina’s technology in the wider forensic markets.
But there wouldn’t be much point in separation from Illumina if this was their sole focus. Verogen later broadened their mission to biometric human identification in general.
However, they retain a key focus on the forensics market. This played a key part in their purchase of GEDmatch. Check out our article on who owns GEDmatch for more details.
Telegraph Hills Partners, Co-Owner Of Verogen
Telegraph Hills Partners (THP) was founded in 2001 to invest in the life sciences and health industries. Over the years, they’ve had several big fundraising rounds that invested in a growing portfolio of companies.
With each round, THP invests in about ten to fourteen different companies. Their fund in 2020 raised $255 million. They invested from $10-40 million per chosen company.
Their prior fund was started in 2013 and closed with $310 million raised. Judging by the dates, this was the fund that was used to invest in Verogen.
In an interview in 2020, one of the co-founders said the company preferred to be the majority owner in the companies in which they invested. This ensured that business-critical decisions weren’t delayed by having to gain consensus from several co-owners.
I haven’t established the breakdown in ownership between Illumina and THP with Verogen.
Other THP-backed companies
Who else is part of the THP stable? You can take a look at the full list.
I’ll focus on some particularly interesting ones here.
Akoya Biosciences had its initial IPO in 2021 when it launched on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. That’s the kind of outcome that an investment firm loves to see.
THP had prior success with medical company LDR, which had an IPO in 2013.
Another good outcome for investors is when their company is purchased. I counted at least twenty acquisitions on their list. The purchasers include big names like GE, Life Technologies, and Fisher Scientific (the latter two are now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific).
Investor Plans For Verogen?
This begs the question: what are THP’s exit plans for Verogen? Surely it’s either an IPO or an acquisition.
Personally, I don’t care a jot about Verogen. But as a customer of GEDmatch, I do care about the direction that the owners take the consumer DNA analysis service. I’ll be watching any developments with interest.