A company, backed by famous Virgin Group leader Sir Richard Branson, is moving to take the DNA-testing company 23andMe public in a move that values the new combined entity at a total of $3.5 billion, the two companies announced this week.
As part of the move with VG Acquisition, 23andMe will get funds totaling $759 million, which includes a $250 million fund from an assortment of sources including Sir Richard Branson himself, the Fidelity Management & Research Co, 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki, Casdin Capital, Altimeter Capital, and Foresite Capital.
Branson, a billionaire serial entrepreneur whose space firm Virgin Galactic went public through an agreement with investor Chamath Palihapitiya in 2019, is the most recent top investor to join the so-called “blank-check” dealmaking trend.
A blank-check company, or SPAC (special purpose acquisition company), is a shell organization that brings in funds during an initial public offering with the intention of buying a private company, which then goes public as result of the purchase.
For the entity being bought, the deal is another way to go public versus a traditional and more difficult IPO. SPACs began last year as a new popular investment for Wall Street.
Politicians like former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and hedge fund leaders such as Bill Ackman and Dan Loeb are also trying make agreements through their blank-check companies.
23andMe, which was started by Wojcicki in 2006, sells home genetic testing kits directly to customers. The company and its products have become popular over the years, and in 2018 came onto the radar of GlaxoSmithKline, which put $300 million into the business.
The new merged entity will be sold under the symbol “ME” on the NYSE.