Biology-as-a-Platform in the Fight Against Cancer: Freenome Raises $270m Series C
By Zachary Bogue 08.26.20
Five years ago, we participated in the seed round for a young company determined to change the way we detect, treat and, ultimately, beat cancer. By combining cutting edge expertise in molecular biology and advanced deep learning techniques, Freenome set out to decode hidden patterns in the human body using routine blood draws to detect the body’s own early-warning signs for cancer. Their groundbreaking approach to advancing the treatment of cancer focused on identifying it earlier so it can be treated more successfully. And it was one of the early examples of Biology-as-a-Platform that will drive the next 50+ years of innovation. By that, we mean a tech stack that combines cutting-edge biology and Deep Tech tools and that produces a repeatable series of hits in everything from diagnostics to industrial biotech to food. Freenome’s initial use case is colorectal cancer, but we at DCVC believe in the vision that this platform will extend well beyond just one type of cancer.
Today, we’re equally if not more excited to participate in the $270 million Series C financing because it’s clearer than ever that while Freenome set out to create a new way to test for cancer, its innovation goes well beyond diagnosing a single type of cancer with a simple blood test. Multiomics is the large-scale analysis of disciplines in biology which translate into the structure, function and dynamics of an organism or organisms–in other words, the proteins, chemicals and biological information that form the building blocks of living organisms. Freenome has pioneered a multiomics platform that powers its blood tests and helps to identify cancer markers in the body. This multiomics platform trains on thousands of cancer-positive blood samples, learning which biomarker patterns signify a cancer’s stage, type, and most effective treatment pathways. It also trains on health samples to help establish what a normal composition of cell-free biomarkers should look like.
Biology’s promise as the platform for future innovation doesn’t stop at human health. While companies like Freenome focus on turning a broad spectrum of cancers into easily treatable diseases, others are using biology to reshape our daily lives by transforming the industries that support them. Companies like Zymergen are using microbes to create new plastics which replace massively polluting petrochemical plants.
By combining the latest advances in science and technology with unique compute and algorithmic advantage, biology can be a powerful platform for creating new solutions to the greatest challenges facing our society and planet. This is core to our Deep Tech thesis, and why we continue to support the companies building this new future.
We pride ourselves in identifying and standing behind transformational companies from the earliest stages - and we have been inspired by the Freenome team since we first discussed their vision five years ago. As the company continues to grow, we look forward to seeing how this talented team and pioneering platform will impact our world in the years to come.