Lego alien lab

A sequencing lab yesterday (we wish) | Image via Paul Albertella/Flickr

We always knew genomics was smart. Now MIT Tech Review confirms it with the release of their 50 Smartest Companies of 2016. No fewer than ten companies offering genomics or DNA-based services appear in the list, from DNA sequencing (guess who?) to GM food.

Topping the genomics list at number three is everyone’s friendly neighbourhood sequencing giant, Illumina, selected for having the sheer brass cojones to name their new liquid biopsy spin-off ‘Grail’. Despite claiming the golden gong in 2014, even the holy Grail was not enough for Illumina to unseat Amazon and its new Alexa Voice Service.

Also in the sequencing game, Oxford Nanopore have claimed the two little ducks (22 for all you non-bingo players) for their portable nanopore-based sequencing devices, soon to be tested in space, and for being enough of a threat to former investor Illumina to trigger a patent infringement lawsuit

Direct-to-consumer platforms also have their place in the list. 23andMe claim the top ten at number seven with one million customers, 80% of whom they claim are participating in medical research. And $999 genome (including interpretation) pioneers Veritas Genetics sneak in at number 40.

This wouldn’t be a list of smart companies in genomics without a nod to CRISPR, and sure enough there at number 35 is Editas Medicine. While they may be tangled up in patent wrangles, and have been pipped to the first-in-man post by UPenn, they still managed to raise a stonking $94 million during their February IPO and since then their stock has skyrocketed by 85%.

Data is big business in genomics, and representing for team bioinformatics is Seven Bridges at number 42. Seven Bridges run one of the world’s largest genomic datasets – the NCI’s Cancer Genome Atlas – that contains a petabyte and counting of patient data.

Finally, there’s a little surprise at the end of the list. They may the subject of a less-than-flattering Neil Young album, and have garnered a reputation for being darker than the heart of evil, but MIT Tech Review still managed to see a spark of good in the work of agri-giant Monsanto. In at number 50, the wizards of The List were delighted with the company’s use of RNA interference to design a new wave of GMOs.

You can check out the full list here. Do you agree? Who didn’t make the cut in your eyes? And who has perhaps been elevated too high? 

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