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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Cypher Genomics

November 18, 2015

In an effort to cement San Diego’s reputation as a world class innovation hub and help SMEs expand their global reach, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, San Diego Regional EDC and JPMorgan Chase & Co. awarded the MetroConnect Grand Prize to San Diego-based genomics startup Cypher Genomics. The Grand Prize winner was voted on by an audience of more than 100 people at the MetroConnect PitchFest. 

Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said, “San Diego’s world-class economy grows from local ideas, startups and businesses that sprout into global companies. I’m proud to host MetroConnect, which not only helps strengthen our overall economy at its roots, but fosters and supports startups like Cypher Genomics at the local level. I hope that Cypher Genomics will continue captivate investment abroad in the same way that they’ve found success here at home. ”

Ashley Van Zeeland, co-founder & CEO, Cypher Genomics said, “Cypher is grateful to win the MetroConnect Grand Prize and to participate in the vibrant and innovative San Diego entrepreneurial community. This award will help us build collaborations around the globe with countries who can use our genome interpretation technology to uncover the genetic causes of rare diseases and cancer, which can inform new therapeutics and improve healthcare around the world.”

Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said, “San Diego’s world-class economy grows from local ideas, startups and businesses that sprout into global companies. I’m proud to host MetroConnect, which not only helps strengthen our overall economy at its roots, but fosters and supports startups like Cypher Genomics at the local level. I hope that Cypher Genomics will continue captivate investment abroad in the same way that they’ve found success here at home. ”

Pharmaceutical manufacturer IriSys also took home the runner-up prize.

Brennon Crist, head of JPMorgan Chase’s Middle Market Commercial Banking Group in San Diego said, “JPMorgan Chase is delighted to recognize all of these outstanding San Diego businesses that have thoroughly embraced the region’s go-global vision. We hope the MetroConnect Prize Program will enable Cypher Genomics and IriSys to continue advancing their global strategy by connecting with potential customers in target international markets. Over time, this outreach can be a win not only for these companies, but for economic growth and job creation for the region.

Nikia Clarke, direct of World Trade Center San Diego said, “MetroConnect targets small and medium sized businesses like Cypher and Irisys because they are really the drivers of the regional economy. The more they export their products and technology, the more connected, competitive, and resilient San Diego becomes.”

Managed by San Diego Regional EDC, and presented by JPMorgan Chase, the MetroConnect Grand Prize offers $50,000 – $35,000 for the winner and $15,000 for the runner-up – to further aid these companies in foreign market expansion. In June, 15 San Diego companies were selected as finalists for the MetroConnect prize, and given $10,000 to pursue strategies to export in foreign markets. Over the course of four months, the 15 companies demonstrated their ability to export to foreign markets. A panel of judges consisting of representatives from  Biocom, CONNECT, Qualcomm Ventures, Quantum Designs, San Diego Regional EDC, Tech San Diego and Wireless Life Sciences Alliance reviewed companies’ accomplishments and goals as a means of selecting the top four finalists to present at the PitchFest: Applied Membranes, Aventyn, Cypher Genomics and IriSys.

A spin-out of the Scripps Research Institute, San Diego-based Cypher Genomics is a 13 person startup that’s revolutionizing the way we understand and deliver personalized healthcare. Through its technology, Cypher Genomics is able to rapidly sequence the human genome, enabling scientists and medical professionals to find individualized therapies to combat rare diseases. With the MetroConnect Prize, Cypher was able to partner with Genome England on its large-scale study to sequence 100,000 human genomes. 

With the $35,000 Grand Prize, Cypher will be exploring additional foreign markets, such as Saudi Arabia and Sweden, that are investing in population-scale genomics.  Because of this foreign activity, Cypher is able to boost product innovation, translating into further job creation and capital investment in the San Diego market.

Global engagement is essential if San Diego wants to catalyze its economy and workforce. The benefits of companies going global and engaging foreign markets are well-documented. According to the Brookings Institution, companies that are global pay their employees higher wages, are less likely to go out of business and spur more efficient development of technology and R&D.

July 29, 2015

This is part of an ongoing series on the recipients of the MetroConnect Prize, a grant awarded to 15 companies looking to expand into new foreign markets. Subscribe here to receive new posts every Wednesday on this topic.


There are 3.2 billion base pairs in your genome. Although all of this information is contained within a single cell, decoding it – and thus understanding many diseases and pathologies – is a challenge.  

San Diego-based Cypher Genomics, winner of the MetroConnect Prize, may be changing that.

We’re working to translate your genome into actionable information to impact human health,” said Adam Simpson, COO of Cypher Genomics at the MetroConnect launch on July 1.

Cypher is working to solve a large problem facing the genomics industry – genome interpretation. As one of the 15 winners of the MetroConnect Prize, Cypher will be taking its genome decoding technology to the rest of the globe. 

SMEs represent the vast majority of businesses in the region and are responsible for much of the innovation and job creation activity that propels our economy. The success of these firms is critical to the region’s future, and increasing their global reach is crucial to that success. Through the MetroConnect Prize, companies such as Cypher Genomics received $10,000 grants to assist with their next step in going global.

Cypher plans to use the prize money to advance business development efforts around the globe including in the United Kingdom, Japan and China. Not only are these countries that can benefit from genomics technology, but they are also among San Diego’s top five trade partners. Simpson is currently en route to the U.K. to use some of the funds.

As Cypher has learned, they’re not promoting their own business, but also the San Diego region. San Diego is known across the globe as a major contender in the life sciences industry.  Just last week, JLL found that San Diego had the fourth largest life sciences cluster in the nation.  Although we may have just missed the top three, when it comes to genomics, San Diego is the gold standard.

Like many successful San Diego life sciences firms, Cypher traces its roots back to our research institutes on the Mesa. What started as an idea inside of the Scripps Research Institute has morphed into a 10 plus person company. Chaired by industry vet Hank Nordoff (Hank also chaired EDC’s board from 2004 -2006), Cypher is in good company with many other leading genomics companies including Illumina, Sequenom and others.  

We have incredible academic institutions. We have access to incredible talent, wonderful people, and great companies. San Diego really is THE city for genomics, said Simpson.

The MetroConnect Prize is made possible by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

You can read Cypher Genomics' blog post about the MetroConnect prize here.