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Liquid Biopsy Company Gains $360M for Cancer Sequencing

Blood sample

(Public Domain Pictures/Pixabay)

11 May 2017. A company using blood tests to diagnose cancer is receiving a $360 million investment for its campaign to sequence DNA from 1 million people at high risk of cancer. Softbank, a technology holding company based in Japan, is leading the investment in Guardant Health in Redwood City, California.

Guardant’s technology offers genomic sequencing of blood samples provided by cancer patients, looking for circulating tumor cells in the blood, rather than tissue sample biopsies that often require invasive surgery. The company says its platform performs a digital sequencing of genomes from the blood samples that makes it possible to tell true cancer-causing mutations from noise and distortions returned from even modern next-generation genomic sequencing. Its main service, known as Guardant 360, tests for 73 genes representing exons, or coding regions for proteins, most associated with cancer-causing mutations for individuals with cancer in advanced stages.

The $360 million in new funds from Softbank and others are expected to finance expansion of Guardant’s Lunar project, begun last year. In this project, Guardant applies its diagnostics technology to early-stage cancer detection, beginning with residual cancer in patients already receiving treatment, including surgery and radiation. Testing is then planned with 1 million individuals considered to be in populations at high risk, looking for early-stage evidence of cancer, but not yet diagnosed.

“We believe our rapid, iterative approach,” says Guardant Health co-founder and president Amir Ali Talasaz in a company statement, “will generate the data necessary to develop non-invasive tests that are both sensitive enough to detect cancer early in high-risk populations, and specific enough to avoid inflicting unnecessary anxiety and harm through overdiagnosis.”

The funding also supports a joint venture with Softbank to expand Guardant’s services to more areas of the world. The venture is expected to introduce Guardant’s liquid biopsy services to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa where the companies say some 7.8 million new cancer cases are diagnosed each year.

Joining with Softbank in this financial round are Guardant current investors Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, OrbiMed, and 8VC. New investors representing funds and accounts managed by T. Rowe Price Associates, Temasek, and others are also taking part. Guardant says the new funding increases the amount of capital it raised to more than $500 million.

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