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2021-12-08| FundingTechnology

Freenome Raises $300 Million Series D for Cancer-Detecting Multiomics Platform

by Joy Lin
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Freenome, a privately-owned San Francisco biotech, has closed a $300 million Series D financing round to advance its multiomics platform for early cancer detection. The latest round surpasses the $270 million Series C it raised last year, bringing Freenome’s total fundraising to over $800 million since its founding in 2014. 

According to Freenome, the proceeds will go into preparing its lead product — a blood test for colorectal cancer — for regulatory approval and market launch. The cash injection will also help the company expand its liquid biopsy platform to other cancers such as pancreatic cancer.

The round was co-led by Perceptive Advisors and RA Capital Management and joined by over 30 investors old and new, including Novartis, Roche Venture Fund, American Cancer Society’s BrightEdge Ventures, Polaris Partners, and GV (Alphabet’s VC investment arm). 

“We appreciate the shared belief our investors have in what is possible when it comes to fighting cancer,” said Freenome CEO Mike Nolan. “This funding gets us closer to bringing our early cancer detection tests to everyone, ultimately saving lives.”

Related Article: 10 Precision Oncology Companies to Look Out for

 

Using Multiomics to Address Challenges in Detecting Cancer 

 

Early detection of cancers is fraught with challenges. For colorectal cancer, colonoscopy and fecal tests have typically been used to screen for early signs of the disease. However, such procedures could be invasive or have low patient adherence rates. 

Companies developing blood tests to detect early colorectal cancer face limitations too. In a previous interview, Freenome CSO Jimmy Lin mentioned that blood sampling for tiny tumor sheddings in the bloodstream may not yield enough biomarkers for assessment, especially when there is not a lot of blood to sample. 

Furthermore, cancer DNA, RNA and proteins are heterogenous, even in early cancer, creating the need to read multiple signals to make an assessment more accurate. 

Freenome’s multiomics platform, which uses computational biology and machine learning, can address these limitations by detecting more biomarker patterns in the blood circulation. 

Related Article: The Maturation of Blood-Based Diagnostics to Nip Cancers in the Bud: An Interview with Dr. Jimmy Lin

 

CRC, Pancreatic Cancer and More 

 

Freenome is validating its first blood test for colorectal cancer in the Preempt CRC study, which will analyze the blood samples from 25,000 patients for colorectal cancer. A previous study, dubbed AI-Emerge, showed that the blood test detected early (Stage 1 or 2) colorectal cancer with a sensitivity and specificity of 94%. 

Freenome is also working to expand its platform to other cancers such as pancreatic cancer. It has conducted a retrospective study to detect Stage 2, 3 and 4 pancreatic cancer through multiomic analysis of methylation and carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9), two biomarkers in the disease. The results showed that Freenome’s approach had a sensitivity of 93%. 

Last week, the company partnered with Siemens Healthineers to identify biomarkers for early breast cancer detection, which could pave the way for future breast cancer blood tests.

Competitors in Early Cancer Detection Market 

 

Freenome may have a powerful diagnostic tool in its multiomics platform, but its blood tests would face competition from players in the early cancer detection market. 

One such contender would be Illumina. Following its $8 billion buyout of Grail, Illumina got hold of Grail’s Galleri genomic test, which it claims could detect 50 different cancers in the early stages. 

Meanwhile, Guardant Health received FDA approval last August for its Guardant360 CDx pan-cancer blood test, which it says can detect mutations in 74 genes. 

However, the early cancer detection market is still expanding, suggesting there is still a niche for multiomics and its potential to generate a more elaborate profile of certain tumor types.

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