In what has become a near-annual tradition for Freenome, the developer of a liquid biopsy platform for early cancer detection closed yet another venture capital megaround, sending its total fundraising tally surging to more than $800 million in just seven years.
The series D funding is Freenome’s largest yet, clocking in at a supersized $300 million. It builds on the $270 million the company raked in last year and the $160 million series B that closed in July 2019.
The latest addition to its pocketbook came courtesy of more than two dozen new and existing investors. That group includes the round’s co-leaders, Perceptive Advisors and RA Capital Management, as well as big names like Novartis, Roche Venture Fund, Alphabet’s GV (formerly known as Google Ventures), Kaiser Permanente and more.
With the new funding, Freenome said it will not only accelerate its efforts to commercialize the first test developed on its platform—a liquid biopsy to detect colorectal cancer in a standard blood sample—but also continue developing the platform to accommodate tests for other types of cancer.
“We appreciate the shared belief our investors have in what is possible when it comes to fighting cancer,” said CEO Mike Nolan. “This funding gets us closer to bringing our early cancer detection tests to everyone, ultimately saving lives.”
The Freenome platform uses machine learning artificial intelligence to analyze genomic, transcriptomic, methylomic and proteomic data in a routine blood draw to spot the earliest signs of cancer, including biological signals derived from both tumors and non-tumor sources.
The company’s first test, for colorectal cancer, is now in the clinical testing stage. Enrollment is currently wrapping up for the Preempt CRC validation study, which aims to study the blood samples of 25,000 patients between the ages of 45 and 85 who are at average risk of contracting colorectal cancer and have no symptoms of the disease.
A previous study, dubbed AI-Emerge, found that the test demonstrated 94% sensitivity and specificity in detecting stage 1 and 2 colorectal adenocarcinoma, and 91% sensitivity in spotting later-stage cancers.
Additionally, when the liquid biopsy was tasked in the study with identifying colorectal advanced adenomas—benign polyps that can be precursors to cancer—it did so with a sensitivity of 41%, a rate comparable to that of the standard Cologuard at-home stool test and well above that of other fecal and blood tests.
Amid its ongoing study of the colorectal cancer test, Freenome is already beginning to develop other tests on the liquid biopsy platform. Results of a retrospective study presented in September showed that its blood test looking for signs of pancreatic cancer in both DNA methylation and the carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9) was able to detect stage 2, 3 and 4 cancer with 93% sensitivity, outperforming the only currently FDA-cleared test for monitoring pancreatic cancer, which looks solely at CA19-9 signals.
Additionally, just last week, Freenome unveiled a new partnership with Siemens Healthineers. Together, the partners are aiming to identify biomarkers that may be used to develop a new blood test for breast cancer, which could one day be administered alongside mammograms and other standard diagnostic imaging practices to boost early detection.