Health

Genomics startup gets $3M to usher in new era of ‘personalized medicine’

The cost of sequencing the human genome has plummeted. But how will this benefit doctors and patients?

Biomedical researchers hope to harness data about the human gene pool to usher a new era of “personalized medicine,” which could lead to a highly targeted treatment of disease.

Syapse is a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup that claims to be one of the largest repositories of human molecular profiles. It has raised $3 million today.

The startup is on a mission to bring human genetic data out of the lab, and into the hands of doctors. “Health care traditionally has been a field of observational science,” said CEO Glenn Winokur in an interview. “With the advent of being able to measure more complex components of the human body through sequencing, we are able to have more precise diagnosis and treatment.

“Many feel this [personalized or precision medicine] is the future of health care,” he continued, but revealed that the problem is “very challenging” as the data is “new, voluminous, and complex.”

The Social+Capital Partnership led the first round of funding. It’s a venture fund launched by a former vice president at Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya, who will join Syapse’s board.

Syapse is one of a growing number of Silicon Valley startups that seek to remove some of the guesswork out of medicine.

Randy Scott, a cofounder and CEO of InVitae, said he is working with Syapse on a shared goal of “bringing genomics into everyday clinical practice to truly enable personalized medicine.” Syapse provides the software infrastructure to “connect genomic and clinical information across millions of individuals,” he said in a statement.

Scott is the former CEO of Genomic Health and is an important figure in the genomics sector. He has poured his personal resources into the creation of a dream diagnostic test to help geneticists look broadly for rare, inherited genetic disorders.


Related: Read about the efforts of genome entrepreneurs to sequence the DNA of millions of people, and learn more about the human gene pool.


Syapse is currently sequencing 3,000 patient genomes per quarter. It is working with laboratories and clinics using the latest sequencing technologies to diagnose and treat patients. Customers include Foundation Medicine and Genapsys.

Its flagship cloud-based technology, launched last summer, finds use from labs and companies as a way to deliver diagnostic reports. It generates a full report for physicians, which Syapse electronically delivers.

Winokur said by email that the funding will help expand the team, primarily in the hiring software developers. He also hinted at an additional product, which will be geared at delivering “genomics based solutions” to select hospitals, meaning that patients will someday receive drug therapies based on their individual molecular blueprint.

The company was founded in 2008 at Stanford University by a team of entrepreneurs and software engineers. It an undisclosed angel round, it received $1.6 million. Social+Capital’s limited partners include billionaire philanthropist and entrepreneur Eli Broad, and the Mayo Clinic, among others.


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