Dana-Farber's Precede Biosciences debuts with $57M for its blood-based biopsy tests

A new spinout from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute aims to deliver a series of blood tests aimed not only at directing patients to precision tumor treatments, but also at assisting drug developers in creating new ones—and it's making its debut with $57 million in the bank.

Precede Biosciences got its start with seed funding from Dana-Farber’s Binney Street Capital investment fund and 5AM Ventures’ startup incubator, known as the 4:59 Initiative. The $57 million total also includes proceeds from a series A venture capital round co-led by 5AM Ventures and Lilly Asia Ventures and joined by backers from Illumina Ventures, Bristol Myers Squibb, Osage University Partners and the Qatar Investment Authority.

While other cancer blood tests have focused on identifying individual tumor-associated mutations, Precede’s liquid biopsy approach aims to take a deeper dive into the body’s transcriptional biology. By parsing the DNA that can be found in as little as 1 milliliter of plasma and cataloging the hundreds of thousands of compounds that govern how specific genes are ultimately turned into proteins, it aims to chart out changes in the function of a cell or the course of a disease.

In its curtain-raising announcement, Precede said it has been partnering with biopharma companies to help them identify how these biological processes can give rise to drug resistance as well as provide additional targets for potential cancer therapies. Currently, its platform is available for research use only, but the company said it plans to develop blood tests that could one day be used in clinical care as an alternative to invasive tissue-based biopsies.

“Our platform is a true first for the field as it enables comprehensive profiling of dynamic disease-site biology at the gene and pathway level from a simple blood draw,” Precede co-founder and CEO Rehan Verjee said in the announcement. 

“Existing liquid biopsy technologies have impacted millions of patients with cancer over the last decade, and the precision medicine application space for Precede transcends that of even the most successful of these liquid biopsy technologies, creating a significant opportunity for us to impact the practice of medicine,” Verjee added.

During their development at Dana-Farber, Precede’s tests have generated more than 7,000 genomewide transcriptional profiles of diseases spanning multiple cancers and other conditions, the company said. Precede is scheduled to present its first scientific data at the annual congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology later this month in Madrid.