Seven Bridges has raised $45 million to advance its large-scale genome analysis platform. The round, which was led by Kryssen Capital, is intended to position Seven Bridges to capitalize on the surge in interest in genomic data sharing and analysis sparked by projects such as the Cancer Moonshot 2020 and President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).
Cambridge, MA-based Seven Bridges is well placed to capture a slice of the nascent market. Seven Bridges is already the only commercial partner in a National Cancer Institute pilot project to share 1 petabyte of genomic data through the cloud and has been actively involved in the United Kingdom's 100,000 Genomes Project. With the Cancer Moonshot set to make more money available for data-sharing projects--and the growing scale of the opportunity making it more attractive for potential competitors--Seven Bridges has committed to building on its standing through fresh investment.
"Our progress in platform development for both these large-scale precision medicine projects and drug research projects for pharmaceutical companies is assisted by growing our team and investing heavily in R&D," Seven Bridges President James Sietstra told FierceBiotechIT. "So, that's really what we're going to be using the capital for."
As it stands, Seven Bridges employees around 200 people, a figure it has reached at a quick rate.
"We've consistently doubled headcount every year for the past three years, and we intend to continue to grow at a fast pace," Sietstra said.
The R&D investments and scaling up of the operation are intended to equip Seven Bridges to meet the evolving needs of existing large-scale genomics projects and the forecast rise in the number of countries and organizations starting such initiatives. In industry, the discovery of the role of PCSK9, the target of Amgen's ($AMGN) Repatha and Regeneron ($REGN) and Sanofi's ($SNY) Praluent, has hinted at the research potential of the sort of million genome-scale analyses Seven Bridges supports, although doubts about the approach will remain until it establishes a track record of success.
In parallel, national governments have started to explore the potential for population-scale genome projects to enhance healthcare and make them more attractive locations for biopharma R&D.
"I suspect over the next few years you're going to see many 100,000 genome and even million genome projects coming up around the world," Sietstra said. Genomics England, which has worked closely with industry on the 100,000 Genomes Project, has shown what is possible. "We're seeing countries looking at [Genomics England] and asking how can we replicate that model," he said.
Countries as contrasting as the U.S. and Qatar are among those already involved in population-scale genomics programs, and Sietstra expects globalization of the phenomenon to continue.
"We take a pretty global approach and have engaged, active conversations in countries in Asia-Pacific, Northern Europe, Middle East," he said. In the U.S., Seven Bridges Cancer Genomics Cloud went live this week, making data from the 11,000 patients in The Cancer Genome Atlas--and the computational resources to analyze them--more widely available.
Seven Bridges' progress in the U.S. and China--which Sietstra called a "huge market"--could be aided additions it made to its board of advisors this week. Former U.S. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle and Google China founder Kai-Fu Lee are the new members.
"Sen. Daschle, given his long history in national health policy, can help us navigate some of the PMI projects coming out of the White House and the Cancer Moonshot," Sietstra said. As founder of Google China and Microsoft Research Asia, Lee is set to offer guidance on China and turning research into commercially viable products.
- read the announcement