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23andMe set to go public via a Virgin Group SPAC merger

Darrell Etherington
·2-min read

Genetics testing and genome research company 23andMe is set to go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) VG Acquisition Corp., a vehicle set up by Richard Branson and his company Virgin Group. The transaction is expected to result in 23andMe having around $984 million in cash available at close to spend on product development, hires and other growth strategies, and will value the company at around $3.5 billion, close to the total cited by an earlier report detailing the talks leading up to this deal.

23andMe, founded in 2006 by CEO Anne Wojcicki, Linda Avey and Paul Cusenza, has raised a total of just under $900 million to date, including an $85 million Series F round announced last December. The company was one of the first to debut at-home genetic testing for individual consumers, providing kits that people can use to find out more about their own DNA, and what it says about their potential health issue, ancestry and more.

More recently, the company has turned its massive genomic data store into an opt-in genetic research resource that is used for discovery of future therapies and treatments. It also monetizes through aggregated, anonymized sharing of the data it collects with third-parties, for research and business purposes.

The deal will include $25 million each from Wojcicki and Branson invested into the private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction that accompanies the merger. It's expected to close in the second quarter of this year, and the resulting company will be listed on the NYSE under the ticker "ME."

The current SPAC craze has proved a path to exit for a number of startups, and long-private companies like 23andMe that technically still fit our definition because of the lack of an exit event, but that have also seemed content to rely on private investors to supply their cash reserves for a long time.