Modern science is not only deliberating on a single blood test for early detection of all cancers, but Illumina, the $24 billion (market cap) biotechnology company that has pioneered cheap, efficient sequencing of DNA, says it could be a reality in a few years. It is launching a new startup, with $100 million in funding.
With big names and companies such as: Illumina which allegedly will hold a majority share and other backers including:
- Sutter Hill Ventures,
- ARCH Ventures,
- Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Expeditions, and
- Bill Gates
This could be another major breakthrough in the world of genetic science even though the startup could have vast medical, economic, and societal implications.
According to Jay Flatley; Illumina’s CEO for sixteen years
“Everything here is directed at being a pan-cancer test, something that is a universal test,”
Robert Nelsen, a partner at ARCH says:
“It’s our largest investment ever,
It remains to be proven, but it’s likely to be the case that you will be able to know deep and large amounts of information about multiple cancers with a single test”
Nelsen helped found Illumina, and more recently, some of the most well-funded startups ever, including cancer company Juno Therapeutics, which raised $310 million before its IPO, and Denali Therapeutics, focused on brain diseases, which raised $217 million last year.
Flatley says that the idea was hatched eighteen months ago when Illumina researchers were trying the company’s DNA sequencers out on blood. They found that as the company’s sequencers became increasingly powerful, they were able to detect trace amounts of DNA in those samples.
Like Matthew Herper believes, indeed it is biology’s century.