A company that wants to replace cancer biopsies with blood tests just raised nearly $100 million

A startup that wants to make cancer testing as simple as taking a blood test just raised nearly $100 million.

Guardant Health, a Redwood City-based cancer diagnostics company, said it’s completed a series D funding round led by OrbiMed. The healthcare-investment firm is joined by Silicon Valley venture capitalists Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital, which also invested in earlier rounds.

Guardant did not disclose a valuation.

Guardant’s “liquid biopsy” Guardant360 test takes blood samples from cancer patients and sequences genetic information in that blood to figure out how tumours are responding to a certain cancer therapy. This way, a patient using the Guardant360 test can get a liquid biopsy every few weeks, rather than every few months, the timeline for a traditional biopsy.

Guardant CEO Helmy Eltoukhy told Business Insider that the company is running these tests at a rate of about 20,000 a year, with almost 2,000 cancer doctors using the test to monitor their patient’s disease. He said this volume of tests has increased tenfold since the company’s last round of funding.

Unlike Flatiron Health, one of the companies Guardant has partnered with in the past that also announced a funding round this week and said it’s planning for an IPO within a few years, Eltoukhy said there isn’t an exact timeline for going public.

“We’re making sure we do our homework to make sure that the company’s processes and management team and all the different pieces are at a level such that we can go public if we so choose,” he said.

Guardant, which launched its first test in 2014 has only been around for a little over three years. Now, it is working quickly to partner with pharmaceutical companies to start developing companion diagnostic tests. The goal there is to match cancer patients to a medication that’s going to work the best against their tumours, based on that person’s genetics.

Although some liquid biopsy companies have run into trouble recently for not having their tests clinically validated, Eltoukhy said Guardant has been taking steps to make sure its tests are accurate, including publishing studies that compare results to traditional mass tissue biopsies and running the technology past cancer centres. The company also works in CLIA-regulated labs, and is keeping its standards up to FDA quality in the event that it becomes a companion test to a cancer drug.

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