DNA startup Omicron hits U.S. soil

DNA testing startup Omicron has reached the United States, after raising $15 million and gaining authorization to operate nationwide.

“We’re focused on providing traceability.” said Jeremy Jones, co-founder and chief executive of Omicron.

Unlike most other DNA-based tools, Omicron relies on saliva instead of nucleic acids. Instead of testing the DNA or a genetic sequence in the blood, it takes two drops of saliva. Then it strips away the individual’s own cells to find the genetic fingerprint.

The tools work for human and animal populations, Jones said. At the moment, testing services are mainly designed for research. Omicron might someday find its way into hospitals and health care facilities, though it’s not yet planned to do so.

A self-funded startup, Omicron has offices in Chicago and Seoul. The expansion brings it into the state-to-state footprint of contact-tracking technology. Another CRO, Biolex Inc., developed a DNA trace technology, plus tracked the progress of several clients in California.

“Some of the best technologies in the world are not easy to deploy, but we have been able to change that with the simplification of our overall DNA solution,” Jones said.

Omicron recently became the first company to clear Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance in South Dakota. From there, it plans to go nationwide, Jones said.

The startup, though, is not without critics. Some CROs have questioned Omicron’s sustainability, arguing that it charges premium prices, which makes it more expensive than some other methods. Omicron has defended its value, citing its promise to:

• be less expensive than existing traceable technologies;

• produce greater certainty of success than other technologies;

• accelerate the identification of candidates with fewer false positives.

Omicron’s investors include founding partner of Insight Venture Partners Ellen Rubin, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Andreas Halvorsen.

H. Muruganathan, CEO of Ghanayapatna, an Indian software company, also invests in the company.

“I’m very excited about Omicron’s technology. DNA-based DNA testing is gaining market interest, and with its success in South Dakota, Omicron’s technology further enhances its competitive advantage in the digital DNA product market,” he said.

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