Invitae Corporation Comes to Potrero Hill

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Invitae Corporation is moving into the former Jessica McClintock headquarters at 1400 16th Street, after signing a $7 million lease for the 103,000 square foot art deco building last September.  “Right now, the landlord’s renovating the building,” said Lee Bendekgey, Invitae’s chief financial officer. “We expect…move into around the middle of the year, in June 2016,”

Renovations include the addition of a roof deck, operable skylight, and greenhouse atrium. Invitae will also transform the former dressmaking place into laboratory and office space.

According to Bendekgey the company is growing rapidly.  “We’ve been around since 2010. We were founded in San Francisco and are headquartered in San Francisco. We’re currently operating at 458 Brannan Street, between Third and Fourth streets. We’re busting at the seams and are delighted to move over to Potrero Hill. There we will have a lot more room to expand,” said Bendekgey.

The move is made possible, in part, by the fact that this year Invitae became a public company, enabling it to raise additional capital. 

Invitae specializes in genetic information, with a goal to make the use of genetic data part of mainstream medical practice.  “Almost none of us knows anything about our genetic makeup. Historically it’s been very expensive to do genetic testing. We’re trying to make genetic testing more affordable and more accessible to patients and their doctors,” said Bendekgey.

Invitae is developing techniques to perform a wide assortment of genetic tests with a single examination. According to Bendekgey, Invitae doesn’t sell individuals’ genetic information; the company would do so only with the client’s specific permission.  “That’s something we feel really strongly about,” said Bendekgey. “For this work, they need to trust that we’re not going to sell their information out the back door.”

“A huge percentage of our employees are San Francisco residents,” Bendekgey said. “We are trying to find locations wherever we operate that are close to mass transit and are easy to get to. It’s clear that there’s a vibrant community in Potrero Hill. The community is becoming more all the time. That neighborhood feeling of having grocery stores, restaurants, and retail around is really important to our employees.”

The new location provides Invitae with easy access to the University of California, San Francisco, and an ability to attract UCSF graduates and professionals. Dr. Robert Nussbaum, Invitae’s chief medical officer, joined the company last summer. He’d previously served as a UCSF professor and chief of the university’s Division of Medical Genetics.

Invitae welcomes tours, especially by kindergarten to high school students. “If there are science classes from neighborhood schools that would like to come in, we would love to do that,” said Bendekgey.  “We’ve had a number of school groups come in. It’s something we love doing. It’s inspiring for the kids and very rewarding for our employees. It’s particularly motivating for girls who come in and see women who are senior employees with Ph.Ds.”

The company is preparing to provide several hundred tests under a new Sudden Death in the Young (SDY) Case Registry initiative. The registry receives federal funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of an effort to determine the reasons for sudden death in people 20 years old and younger. Under SDY Invitae will be testing in ten U.S. regions, including San Francisco.

“When an otherwise healthy young person dies, the most common explanation is there’s some genetic source. Usually there are no symptoms until a person dies. There are importations for someone’s family. They may pass it along to their children,” said Bendekgey.  According to Bendekgey, SDY will provide families with important genetic information, enabling them to seek medical treatment when they otherwise might not have. Family members may also make more informed decisions about family planning and reproductive health.