Illumina has announced the first three companies in its Accelerator Programme, designed to help genomics start-ups as other sources of funding grow scarce.
The six-month programme gives the companies access to and credit for Illumina's sequencing technology, lab space in the San Francisco Bay area and a $100,000 loan.
The winning companies, chosen from 30 applicants, are Encoded Genomics, EpiBiome, and Xcell Biosciences.
Dr Mostafa Ronaghi, Illumina's senior vice president and chief technology officer, said the company was 'very excited to work with these entrepreneurs to help them expand the next-generation sequencing market'.
The companies work in diverse areas: Encoded Genomics analyses the human genome for information which may be of use in drug development; EpiBiome focuses on agriculture, hoping to develop a virus to fight bacterial infections in dairy cattle; and Xcell Biosciences are developing a tool to help grow specific cells, including cancer and immune cells, from a patient's blood.
Illumina's move towards funding early-stage companies, in addition to continuing their own research, may be, according to Nature magazine, 'a smart way for Illumina to boost the size of its own potential market'.
'They have this amazing technology, and they're thinking, "How do we accelerate its adoption?"' Deniz Kural, chief executive of Seven Bridges Genomics, a US bioinformatics company, told the magazine. 'It's hard for any one company to explore all these markets.'
Illumina's programme also comes at a time when software for genomic research is developing faster than the hardware that is the company's backbone.
'This is partly Illumina's strategy of staying relevant even when the focus shifts from hardware to software,' Kural told Nature.
Illumina is now accepting applications for its spring 2015 accelerator programme.