Veritas Genomics, a biotech company that wants to sequence and analyse your entire genome for $999, just got another $30 million to pull it off.
Trustbridge Partners led the Series B round, and Lilly Asia Ventures (which had invested previously) and Jiangsu Simcere Pharmaceutical also joined in. In total, Veritas has raised $42 million.
The company was co-founded by Harvard Medical School biologist George Church (also known for his work with the gene editing technology CRISPR and his help in initating the Human Genome Project). Veritas CEO and co-founder Mirza Cifric told Business Insider that since launching the $999 genome test in March, the company’s been busy with a “more than expected number” of genomes to sequence.
Here’s how it works: On Veritas’ website, you can go in and get started with ordering a test. However, your doctor has to be the one that prescribes the test — Veritas won’t provide one for you. Once the forms are filled out and you pay $999, you’re on your way to getting your entire genome mapped out. Once it’s all analysed, that information can be accessed online.
Your entire genome is filled a whole lot of information — including a lot we’re not entirely sure how to interpret just yet. Most genetics tests out there mainly focus on gathering up single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs for short) that are specific mutations that have been linked particular traits or conditions.
For example, a test for mutations on the BRCA breast cancer gene looks specifically at those mutations (a test Veritas also does for $199 for those who don’t want to opt for the full genome experience). Getting your entire genome sequence is a much larger endeavour.
Veritas is seeing a lot of interest for these types of genetics tests around the globe, where people are willing to pay directly for the tests. Cifric noted that with the higher out-of-pocket costs people in the US are already paying, that could change sentiments in the US, too.
“We’re maintaining the point of view out-of-pocket affordability is the right way to win in the US as well,” Cifric said.
Where Veritas thinks it can be a reasonable alternative is to genetics tests that look for a specific number of genes but cost a few thousand dollars (which, depending on the insurer, the cost might not fall directly on the person getting that test). “The genome is the obvious choice, because you get that and lot more,” he said.
However, Veritas does recognise that there’s still a whole lot we don’t know how to interpret all 3 billion base pairs we’ve got in our genome. But, with more information coming out all the time about what our genes can and can’t tell us, the hope is to get people interested for the long haul.
“It’s not just about getting the customer to have their genome sequenced,” Veritas’ recently hired chief marketing and design officer Rodrigo Martinez told Business Insider. “It’s about, how do you keep people interested and engaged.”
Veritas says the funding round will go toward making a platform where people can access their reports and genomic data in a more user-friendly way, so that it feels less like something you’d see at the hospital and more like an experience you’d have every day. The investment will also be used to expand the company’s global presence.
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