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Invitae raises $120M for its $1,500 gene sequencing test

DNA strand
Image Credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Genomics will someday be your doctor’s major weapon for keeping you healthy throughout your life.

The San Francisco-based genetics company Invitae is pushing hard toward making that a reality. The company has developed a test that sequences 218 types of genes to find markers that might point toward health problems in the future.

The company has now taken a sizable $120 million funding round from The Broe Group, Decheng Capital, Deerfield Management, OrbiMed, Perceptive Advisors, Rock Springs Capital, and Wellington Management Company, among others. The company isn’t saying who led the round.

One common use of Invitae’s tests, says spokeswoman Katherine Stueland, is when a doctor is advising a patient who has a disease like breast cancer in her family. The physician can pay $1,500 for a test that targets specific genetic markers in the patient’s genome that might indicate a likelihood of getting the disease. Or, the physician can get the full panel of 218 genes for the same price. The test runs the same way either way.

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Invitae competes against a few other genetic testing companies, like Myriad Genetics, Ambry, and Athena. Stueland says her company can turn around its test results faster than its peers — usually in three weeks.

One very well-known genetic testing company, 23andMe, ran into trouble after failing to secure FDA approval for its tests. There was some reason to believe that people were getting unnecessary procedures, including mastectomies, based on 23andMe tests — and the FDA wanted to prevent that. 23andMe no longer offers tests that indicate your likelihood of getting various diseases, and is still waiting for FDA approval.

Invitae is beginning to collect a lot of data from its tests, and that data can be meaningful to researchers who study the genetic precursors to serious diseases. The company works through its physician customers to get approval from patients to include their genes in the Invitae database. The new funding will be used to build the infrastructure needed to store and manage the genetic information. Some of the new funding will also be used to increase the number of genes Invitae can sequence.

Invitae has raised a total of $207 million since launching in 2012. Existing investors participating in the financing included Casdin Capital, Genesys Capital, Genomic Health, Genomic CEO Randy Scott, Redmile Group, and Thomas McNerney & Partners, among others.