TwinStrand Biosciences raises $50M to increase adoption of DNA sequencing tech for cancer detection

DNA helix forming inside a test tube
TwinStrand’s Duplex Sequencing technology can detect low-frequency DNA mutations with 10,000 times more accuracy than other next-generation sequencing tools. (Getty Images)

While much of the world is still getting on board with next-generation sequencing technology, many biotech developers are already in hot pursuit of the next next-generation tools.

One such developer is TwinStrand Biosciences. The Seattle-based startup recently took in a $50 million haul to expand the reach of its own sequencing technology, which the company says is 10,000 times more accurate than typical NGS processes.

The series B round was backed by new and existing investors including Soleus Capital, Janus Henderson Investors, Madrona Venture Group, Ridgeback Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments. Section 32 led the round, and Michael Pellini, a partner at the venture fund and former CEO of the genomic tester Foundation Medicine, will join TwinStrand’s board of directors.

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The new financing will be used to increase adoption of TwinStrand’s Duplex Sequencing technology across a variety of use cases. Duplex Sequencing, which is compatible with Illumina’s standard NGS sequencers, essentially boosts the existing technology by separately sequencing both strands of a selected DNA molecule then comparing the results to eliminate any inaccuracies.

Because Duplex Sequencing identifies rare and ultra-low-frequency DNA mutations with high accuracy, it can be used to spot cancer both before symptoms arise and after treatment is complete and to measure the effects of new cellular immunotherapies.

TwinStrand’s software can also detect the presence of carcinogens in the genome before cancer develops, highlighting potential applications for CRISPR and other gene editing and therapy technologies.

“This financing is a rewarding milestone in our growth as a company and a true testament to our team’s perseverance in a challenging year. In addition to the commercial launch of our first products, and the buildout of our clinical lab, 2020 marked an important milestone in the validation of our expanding intellectual portfolio as we closed a major deal in liquid biopsy to kick off our out-licensing program,” said Jesse Salk, TwinStrand’s CEO, co-founder and chief scientific officer—and, incidentally, the grandson of polio vaccine creator Jonas Salk.

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The latest funding round is more than triple the size of the series A that TwinStrand closed last year. That January 2020 round totaled $16 million, which the company said would be directed toward its efforts to commercialize the Duplex Sequencing software and forge new pharmaceutical partnerships.

They followed through: The following month, TwinStrand announced the commercial launch of its Duplex Sequencing kits. The technology is currently available to research teams who are trying to spot microscopic traces of residual disease in acute myeloid leukemia patients and those developing carcinogen-detecting genetic toxicology assays.

And in November, the startup partnered with Foundation Medicine to apply TwinStrand’s sequencing technology to the Roche subsidiary’s liquid biopsy tests for genomic profiling of cancer molecules.