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1 big tip: Sequencing your (entire) genome

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Start of genetic testing Sequencing wants to better understand rare and chronic diseases – not by partnering with Big Pharma, as rivals like 23andMe have done, but by scanning the genome more comprehensively.

Why is this important: The Los Angeles-based startup raised $5 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau, bringing total funding to $7 million, CEO Brandon Colby tells Erin exclusively. The capital will fuel the acceleration of its whole genome sequencing (WGS) technology offering.

  • WGS is a more comprehensive form of genetic testing than that offered by several consumer-facing competitors.
  • Red Sea Ventures, Global Founders Capital, XRC Labs, Correlation Ventures, Mucker Capital and Gaingels have joined the round, which will also help grow the Sequencing team.

Between the lines: Although consumer genetics services aren’t as popular as they once were, their troves of DNA data continue to grow.

  • These databases are actionable to gain insights that fuel drug development and virtual care while providing potential support for the treatment of rare and chronic diseases.

Enlarge: Many DNA testing companies have partnered with pharmaceutical companies, telehealth companies, and health record platforms (see: 23andMe and GlaxoSmithKline and Lemonaid).

  • Seqster, a data synchronization platform that allows patients to combine health information from electronic health records, wearables and DNA sequencing services, raised $12 million last year. dollars in Series A funds.

Yes, but: Sequencing has a very different business model than 23andMe or Seqster – and it’s one that Colby says emphasizes privacy.

  • Rather than selling aggregated DNA data to Big Pharma or other health technologies, Sequencing provides its testing and lab processing capabilities to bioinformatics startups including Athletigen Technologies and Toolbox Genomics, who then perform their own genetic analysis on the data.
  • “It’s important to us that we don’t have to sell someone’s data to make money,” says Colby. “We don’t sell to the pharmaceutical industry and we don’t sell to insurers.”

How it works: Sequencing charges consumers $399 for its WGS-based tests, which are more comprehensive than the SNP-based tests offered by 23andMe and Ancestry, for example.

  • You can consider that SNP-based tests highlight multiple lines of text in a book, while WGS reveals the entire book.
  • Sequencing also individually encrypts each person’s genetic data set and stores it in a single location rather than aggregating into one large database, per Colby.

And after: The company plans its next fundraiser in 2023, Colby says.

State of play: After a year of rage in 2017 for mainstream genetics services, privacy concerns and lack of interest nearly killed demand in 2019.

  • 23andMe (Nasdaq:Me), for example, has been an investment that has been haemorrhaging money since entering the public markets in 2021.
  • Helix, which once offered a range of consumer-focused services very similar to those currently sold by Sequencing, pivoted in 2019 to focus on population health research.

What they say : According to Colby, sequencing doesn’t need to drive sales of a larger genetics company’s products or sell to Big Pharma to grow.