Multiomics startup Pleno nabs $15M for a telecom-based approach to analyzing DNA, RNA

A San Diego startup building instruments for multiomics research has secured $15 million in early funding and has revealed a plan to deliver high-throughput machines for accelerating work in identifying new targets to aid drug development.

Pleno’s technology is based on signal processing techniques derived from the telecommunications industry. The company claims the tech can be wielded to simultaneously analyze DNA and RNA plus the genetic material’s larger methylation structures and the sample’s overall protein content.

Ultimately, the company hopes to overtake the processing power of PCR tests and next-generation sequencing by detecting up to 10,000 targets per sample through a simple workflow.  

The newly raised proceeds—part of what Pleno describes as “pre-series A funding” led by Medical Excellence Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments—will help grow its staff of telecom engineers and biotech researchers.

The company also received financial backing from Gregory Lucier, former chief of NuVasive and current CEO of healthcare investment firm Corza Health, who has joined on as chairman of its board of directors.

“Rarely do I see a company with the potential to disrupt both emerging and mature markets on the scale of what is possible with Pleno’s technology,” Lucier said in a statement. “This isn’t an incremental innovation, it’s a game changer for biomedical research and the widespread clinical adoption of applications like liquid biopsies.” 

Pleno is headed up by founder and CEO Pieter van Rooyen, who previously co-founded Edico Genome, developer of the Dragen next-generation sequencing platform that was acquired by Illumina for $100 million in 2018. Van Rooyen also helped establish point-of-care blood testing company Truvian Sciences, which raised $105 million in venture capital funding last year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the limitations of our current biological research and testing paradigms in terms of capability, scalability, throughput, and cost,” said van Rooyen. “Our technology was born from the desire to enable the simultaneous and rapid detection of more targets, from more samples at a dramatically lower cost, which we believe has the potential to democratize clinical multi-omics and ultimately transform human health.”