Technology-focused venture firm Andreessen Horowitz (“a16z”) has invested $5.5 million into Freenome, a startup that is developing a blood test to detect cancer at the early stages. The method involves looking at the genetic fragments from dying cells of tumors that circulate in the blood.
Some three-dozen companies are working on similar tests, known as a “liquid biopsy.” Some are focused on monitoring a patient’s cancer at the later stages (a far easier proposition that is already on the market); others are hoping to develop a diagnostic test to detect cancer in the early stages (a holy grail). Freenome appears to be doing a combination of the two, which puts it in competition with biotech behemoths like Illumina and Foundation Medicine.
Freenome’s CEO Gabe Otte says the company will publish its findings in due course and continue to work with regulators on pre-market review. I wrote about Otte several months ago, when an early version of a Freenome test diagnosed his father with prostate cancer.
Freenome is one of the earliest investments from a16z’s new bio fund.