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Startups Race to Create Cancer Screens from DNA

Silicon Valley is out for blood—and never simply the rejuvenating blood of the younger. Biomedical engineers are enthralled by the promise of liquid biopsies, noninvasive checks that detect and classify cancers by figuring out the tiny bits of DNA that tumors shed into the bloodstream. Studies at main most cancers facilities have already proven the know-how’s effectiveness in personalizing remedies after prognosis. Now startups are promoting VCs a imaginative and prescient of low-cost, surgery-free most cancers screening even earlier than signs seem.

Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Verily, and others have invested $77 million in Freenome, which makes use of machine studying to pinpoint immune-system responses which will point out the presence of most cancers. Freenome’s most distinguished rival, Grail—which plans to harness subsequent­-generation gene sequencing to instantly measure cancerous genomic alterations within the blood—raised $1.2 billion final 12 months from ARCH Venture Partners. Both firms are racing to make the primary DNA-detecting blood take a look at to reveal illness in its earliest levels. It’s the holy—nicely, —of most cancers care.

If this scientific dash is providing you with Theranos flashbacks, it ought to. Critics imagine that even with assistance from low-cost genetic sequencing and high-powered algorithms, liquid biopsy detection remains to be years away from being patient-ready. The startups have shared scant knowledge thus far. (Grail has begun enrolling 130,000 sufferers in two large trials, but it surely received’t have outcomes for a number of years.) Having secured huge infusions of funding, it’s not cash holding these blood unicorns again, it’s primary biology.

This article seems within the February situation. Subscribe now.

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