From social gaming to gene sequencing: Zynga alums sell health startup to Gene by Gene

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Less than a year after leaving their gigs at Zynga, Jason Wang and Nir Leibovich haven’t just launched a new startup in an unfamiliar industry, they’ve sold it.

On Wednesday, Houston-based genetic testing company Gene by Gene said it had acquired Arpeggi, a gene-sequencing startup founded by Wang, Leibovich and geneticist David Mittelman in October. The companies declined to share financial details on the deal but said that Arpeggi’s six full-time employees will be joining Gene by Gene’s Houston office with the three co-founders taking senior roles at the company.

Gene by Gene, which was founded in 2000, offers a range of genetic-testing services, from direct-to-consumer DNA testing for ancestry and genealogical purposes to whole genome sequencing for institutional customers. By acquiring Arpeggi, the company adds data management and computational analysis services it didn’t have in-house.

“They don’t have to partner with someone else to analyze the data and we don’t have to partner with someone else to generate the data,” said Mittelman. “If you control the lab and the analysis you can do the best interpretation of genetic information.”

Wang and Leibovich joined Zynga in 2011 through the acquisition of MarketZero, a data analytics company for online poker they co-founded. Less than two years later, Mittelman said, he convinced Leibovich, a childhood friend, and Wang to move over to genomics, an industry arguably more in need of smart data science experts than poker.

“[I said] let’s take that same approach and apply it to the healthcare industry,” he said.

In the past year, the company has raised $750,000 in seed funding and was accepted to the New York-based health entrepreneurship program launched by Startup Health and GE.

The acquisition comes amid rising interest in the intersection of big data and genetics. In addition to companies like 23andme that are gaining attention for their work in making genetics accessible to more patients, startups like Bina Technologies and Spiral Genetics are attracting investment for services that use big data to speed up genomic processing.

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