Delfi Diagnostics scoops up $225M from Lilly, Illumina and more for its cancer blood tests

It didn’t take Delfi Diagnostics long after its 2019 founding to hit the coveted nine-digit funding mark: It reached that milestone in early 2021 with the close of its $100 million series A. Less than two years later, the liquid biopsy developer has done it again—this time with a supersized venture round that more than doubles its previous fundraising.

The new series B, clocking in at $225 million, was led by DFJ Growth, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that’s also sending one of its partners to join Delfi’s board of directors. DFJ was joined by nearly two dozen new and existing backers including Eli Lilly & Co., Illumina’s venture arm and more.

With the funding, Delfi said it plans to ramp up the development and global rollout of its blood tests for early cancer detection and treatment monitoring.

“Cancer is a global public health problem, and addressing it requires a solution that is accessible around the world,” said Delfi's CEO and founder, Victor Velculescu, M.D., Ph.D. "We believe our approach is uniquely capable of delivering high-performing, cost-effective and clinically relevant tests for multiple applications to meet the needs of patients and providers everywhere.”

Delfi’s diagnostics take a unique approach to spotting the earliest signs of cancer and tracking the progress of treatment regimens. Its namesake method, which was developed at Johns Hopkins University, is classified as “DNA evaluation of fragments for early interception,” denoting its search throughout the bloodstream for tiny pieces of DNA linked to certain forms of cancer.

The Fierce 15 honoree’s platform doesn’t limit that search to specific well-known DNA mutations or regions of the genome; instead, it uses machine learning algorithms to scour an individual’s entire genome for those cell-free DNA fragments.

Delfi is currently developing tests that’ll look for either a single type of cancer or multiple forms at once, along with the treatment-tracking options—each of which will require only a standard blood sample to run. Furthest along so far is a liquid biopsy test for lung cancer, which is being validated in an ongoing prospective trial of 15,000 participants.

The technology has already proven successful. A study published last year found that Delfi’s blood test was able to spot around 90% of lung cancer cases and that using the diagnostic alongside low-dose CT scans helped cut the number of unnecessary follow-up tissue biopsy procedures in half.

The cancer-detecting liquid biopsy field has become an increasingly crowded one in recent years. Delfi is joined by other mega-fundraisers like Caris Life Sciences, Freenome, Grail, Thrive Earlier Detection and Guardant, some of which have already earned recognition from the FDA for their blood tests—either with breakthrough designations or companion diagnostic approvals.