A pair of high-profile venture investors has joined forces to finance a startup sequencing outfit that has some ambitious near-term marketing plans to start selling a test that can help match cancer patients with the right therapy. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Google Ventures and founding investor Third Rock announced this morning that they have provided Foundation Medicine with some extra startup cash in an expanded $33.5 million Series A.
Third Rock originally took the covers off of Foundation in April of 2010, proffering $25 million in A round cash and naming Alexis Borisy--who had run CombinatoRx--as the founding CEO. Back in May Michael Pellini, the former COO of GE's Clarient, was brought in as CEO and Borisy was named chairman. This expanded A round gives Foundation more cash, and just as importantly allows the biotech startup a chance to share the limelight provided by two very high-profile tech investors as it ramps up commercialization efforts.
Pellini tells Forbes' Matthew Herper, who first reported the story this morning, that the diagnostic test will sell for $3,500 to $4,500. The test will examine the molecular variations in 200 key genes, offering cancer patients with a specific molecular profile information on any relevant clinical trials that could provide treatment options. The founders believe that a closely focused diagnostic test like this can start guiding cancer care now, and that insurers will be willing to cover much of the cost as patients get more personalized treatments.
"What we want to do is take this testing to the community practices to treat patients where they live," Pellini tells Forbes. Third Rock founded the biotech in April, and Novartis ($NVS) and Celgene ($CELG) are already using the technology in clinical trials.
Cambridge, MA-based Foundation won't lack for attention. Kleiner Perkins' Brook Byers, who's backed some legendary biotech companies, is joining the board, along with Google Ventures' Krishna Yeshwant. "We look forward to partnering closely with the Foundation Medicine team as the company develops their test, which will ultimately contribute to improved patient healthcare," said Yeshwant in a statement.
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