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Accelerators / Acquisitions / Biotechnology / Business

A Silicon Valley sequencing leader acquired Baltimore biotech company Circulomics

Pacific Biosciences is acquiring the Johns Hopkins spinout, which focuses in the area of sample prep. Local acclerator programs helped it grow.

Dr. Kelvin Liu is the founder of Circulomics. (Courtesy photo)
Corrected to reflect that Circulomics received $11 million in grant funding. (8:06 p.m., 8/4/21)

Circulomics, a downtown Baltimore biotech startup that spun out of Johns Hopkins University, was acquired by Pacific Biosciences, a publicly traded company based in Silicon Valley.

Going forward, Circulomics’ team of about 10 people will continue with PacBio, and will continue to be based in Baltimore. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Pacific Biosciences makes technology for researchers in life sciences that is designed for “long read” DNA sequencing. This is a newer kind of of sequencing that enables scientists to read longer portions of DNA than they previously could. It can be used in applications across human research, plant and animal sciences and microbiology.

Circulomics makes tools to extract a specific kind of genetic material, called high molecular weight DNA, from samples. This can be used for cells and bacteria, or plants and animals. This makes it available to use across the markets where PacBio works.

“The talented Circulomics team will extend our capabilities in extraction and sample prep and will help us deliver a much easier path toward an end-to-end automated workflow,” said Dr. Catherine Ball, senior VP of research at PacBio, in a statement. “This team and their elegant technology have the potential for impact across the entire genomics workflow from front-end sample preparation to multiplex assays, library prep, and beyond.”

Circulomics was founded in 2009 by Dr. Kelvin Liu. The company was among a wave of startups to receive support through Johns Hopkins’ FastForward accelerator as it grew in the first part of the last decade. It also received $11 million in funding to develop technology through the National Institutes of Health, and Maryland’s TEDCO. In 2017, it was also among the early companies to receive guidance and space to work as it moved into Harbor Launch, the accelerator at Inner Harbor’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. Liu said the company didn’t receive any equity funding along the way as it progressed toward exit.

Circlomics and PacBio already know each other as commercial partners. Circulomics’ first paper was published in conjunction with PacBio in 2016, and they went on to continue collaboration.

“We built a company of scientists who bend over backwards to help our customers generate beautiful sequencing data. Our goal has always been to build products that enable customers to focus on science rather than stress over sample prep. Through collaborations with PacBio, we know we share the same values and obsession with customer success,” said Liu, who will assume the role of VP of technology development with the company.

Liu said the company will continue to serve all of its customers following the acquisition.

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