Karius raises $165 million for its liquid biopsy expertise figuring out ailments in a drop of blood – TechCrunch

“What Karius is nice at is figuring out these novel microbes earlier than they develop into an outbreak like coronavirus,” says Mickey Kertesz, a chief government whose life sciences startup simply hauled in $165 million in new funding.

Whereas the brand new cash could have been raised below the looming menace of Covid 19, the corporate’s expertise is already getting used to check for infection-causing pathogens in immunocompromised pediatric sufferers, and for potential causes of advanced pneumonia, fungal infections and endocarditis, based on a press release from the corporate. 

Liquid biopsy expertise has been extensively embraced in most cancers remedies as a strategy to establish which therapies may fit finest for sufferers primarily based on the presence of hint quantities of genetic materials in a affected person’s bloodstream which can be shed by most cancers cells.

Karius applies the identical rules to the detection of pathogens within the blood — growing {hardware} and software program that applies pc imaginative and prescient and machine studying methods to establish the genetic materials that’s current in a blood pattern.

As the corporate explains, microbes infecting the human physique go away traces of their DNA in blood, that are referred to as microbial cell-free DNA (mcfDNA). The corporate’s take a look at can measure the that cell free DNA of greater than 1,000 clinically related samples from issues like micro organism, DNA viruses, fungi, and parasites. These exams point out the sorts of portions of these pathogens which can be seemingly affecting a affected person. 

“We’re by way of the early phases of adoption and medical research present that the expertise actually saves lives,” says Kertesz.

Its early successes had been sufficient to draw the eye of SoftBank, which is backing the corporate by way of capital raised for its second Imaginative and prescient Fund.

Whereas SoftBank has been roundly criticized for investing an excessive amount of too quickly (or too late) into client startups which haven’t lived as much as their promise (notably with implosions at Brandless, Zume, and the potential disaster often known as WeWork), its life sciences investing staff has a formidable monitor report. “They’ve the expertise and the experience and the community that’s very related to us,” Kertesz stated of the choice to take SoftBank’s cash. “That’s the staff that was on the board of Guardant Well being [and] 10X Genomics.”

Each of these corporations have confirmed to achieve success in public markets and with validated expertise. That’s a function which Karius shares. The corporate’s printed an analytical and medical validation of its take a look at within the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Microbiology displaying that its take a look at recognized the seemingly pathogens inflicting an an infection when in comparison with commonplace strategies extra rapidly and extra precisely. 

With preliminary validation behind it, the corporate raised its new money to pursue fast industrial adoption for its exams and to proceed validating purposes of its expertise whereas exploring new ones.

Among the many major areas of exploration is the identification of recent biomarkers, which might function indicators for brand spanking new ailments (like Covid 19).

“As humanity we haven’t found out infectious ailments but,” stated Kertesz. “Particularly on the stage the place the pathogen is recognized.” Karius has the expertise to try this — though it doesn’t but have the potential to display screen for RNA viruses (that are sorts of ailments like SARS and the coronavirus), Kertesz stated. “It’s the one kind of virus that the platform is unable to detect… [We’re] including that detection functionality.” 

Karius works by digitizing the microbial info in a blood pattern and makes use of machine studying and pc imaginative and prescient to acknowledge the microbial signatures. The corporate makes use of public databases which have information of over 300,000 pathogens. For those that the corporate can’t establish, it creates a identifier for these as nicely. “One of many greatest challeges we’ve right here is to know what we don’t know,” stated Kertesz.

At $2,000 per take a look at, Karius’ biopsies aren’t low-cost, however they’re safer and less expensive than surgical procedures, based on Kartesz. It’s obviating the necessity to dig right into a affected person for a bit of tissue and the expertise is already being utilized in over 100 hospitals and well being programs, the corporate stated.

With that type of attain new buyers together with General Catalyst and HBM Healthcare Investments had been prepared to signal on with SoftBank’s Imaginative and prescient Fund and former buyers like Khosla Ventures and LightSpeed Enterprise Companions to take part within the newest spherical.

“Infectious ailments are the second main reason for deaths worldwide. Karius’ revolutionary mcfDNA expertise precisely diagnoses infections that can not be decided by different current applied sciences,” stated Deep Nishar, Senior Managing Associate at SoftBank Funding Advisers, in a press release.


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