DNA Script picks up $38.5 million to make DNA production faster and simpler


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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DNA Script has raised $38.5 million in new financing to commercialize a process that it claims is the first big leap forward in manufacturing genetic material.

The revolution in synthetic biology that’s reshaping industries from medicine to agriculture rests on three, equally important pillars.

They include: analytics — the ability to map the genome and understand the function of different genes; synthesis — the ability to manufacture DNA to achieve certain functions; and gene editing — the CRISPR-based technologies that allow for the addition or subtraction of genetic code.

New technologies have already been introduced to transform the analytics and editing of genomes, but little progress has been made over the past 50 years in the ways in which genetic material is manufactured. That’s exactly the problem that DNA Script is trying to solve.

Traditionally, making DNA involved the use of chemical compounds to synthesize (or write) DNA in

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XGenomes is bringing DNA sequencing to the masses


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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As healthcare moves toward genetically tailored treatments, one of the biggest hurdles to truly personalized medicine is the lack of fast, low-cost genetic testing.

And few people are more familiar with the problems of today’s genetic diagnostics tools than Kalim Mir, the 52-year-old founder of XGenomes, who has spent his entire professional career studying the human genome.

Ultimately genomics is going to be the foundation for healthcare,” says Mir. “For that we need to move toward a sequencing of populations.” And population-scale gene sequencing is something that current techniques are unable to achieve. 

“If we’re talking about population scale sequencing with millions of people we just don’t have the throughput,” Mir says.

That’s why he started XGenomes, which is presenting as part of the latest batch of Y Combinator companies next week.

A visiting scientist in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Genetics, Mir worked with the

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Two former members of Google’s skunkworks division have launched a biomanufacturing company


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Biomanufacturing technologies — taking modified versions of existing organisms and bending them to the will of humans — has moved from the world of science fiction to becoming a new reality.

Across the startup landscape companies are launching to make synthetic spider silk, or make leather substitutes, or meat substitutes, or novel chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

What all of these companies have in common is that they need to be able to rapidly experiment with different organisms and processes for cultivating them to make their visions work at a commercial scale — and that’s where Culture Biosciences comes in.

The company was founded by two Chapel Hill, N.C. natives and Duke alums Matthew Ball and Will Patrick. The two met in college at Duke and worked together in Google’s famous skunkworks division (then known as Google X).

Will Patrick, co-founder, Culture Biosciences

After leaving Google, Patrick, the company’s chief executive,

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China is funding the future of American biotech


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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Silicon Valley is in the midst of a health craze, and it is being driven by “Eastern” medicine.

It’s been a record year for US medical investing, but investors in Beijing and Shanghai are now increasingly leading the largest deals for US life science and biotech companies. In fact, Chinese venture firms have invested more this year into life science and biotech in the US than they have back home, providing financing for over 300 US-based companies, per Pitchbook. That’s the story at Viela Bio, a Maryland-based company exploring treatments for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which raised a $250 million Series A led by three Chinese firms.

Chinese capital’s newfound appetite also flows into the mainland. Business is booming for Chinese medical startups, who are also seeing the strongest year of venture investment ever, with over one hundred companies receiving $4 billion in investment.

As Chinese investors

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How Tech is Changing How Healthcare Must Communicate With Patients


This post is by Jeff Desjardins from Technology – Visual Capitalist


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Tech is Forcing Healthcare to Change How It Communicates to Patients

How Health Companies Must Communicate With Patients

From consumer-focused apps to groundbreaking 3d printing techniques, the healthcare industry is constantly in the process of being revolutionized by new technologies.

These changes are disrupting the status quo of how business has been done for years – and they are even forcing companies to pivot in the areas of business that aren’t as traditionally driven by innovation or R&D.

One such area: how companies communicate with potential and active patients.

The Pivot to Content Strategy

Today’s infographic comes to us from Publicis Health, and it shows that technology is changing the way that life sciences and pharmaceutical companies will need to market and inform consumers.

For an industry in which one-way communication has traditionally been the norm, a multitude of factors are converging to make it essential for healthcare companies to pivot to a new way of doing things. Instead of

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How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare


This post is by Jeff Desjardins from Technology – Visual Capitalist


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How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare

How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare

Data is driving the future of business, and any company not prepared for this transformation is at risk of being left behind.

This is a reality in almost every sector, but it’s especially relevant to companies in the healthcare industry. That’s because the amount of health data being created is growing at a 48% rate annually, and by 2020, a Stanford University study estimates that 2,314 exabytes of healthcare data will be produced per year.

Simply put, the companies that can extract meaningful insights from these mountains of data will have a serious and durable competitive advantage – and those that don’t have a proper strategy for this boom in data will get lost in the weeds.

Breaking Down Big Data

Today’s infographic comes to us from Publicis Health, and it shows why big data is one of the six

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These science superstars just won the 2017 Breakthrough Prize


This post is by Taylor Hatmaker from TechCrunch


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breakthrough-prize-taylor-hatmaker Today at the 5th annual Breakthrough Prize, some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names will award more than $25 million to scientific research in departments across the globe. The event splices together research scientists far more accustomed to red tape than red carpets with tech’s deepest-pocketed and most idealistic upper echelons. The result is a flashy, hopeful hybrid event… Read More

Investing in a Cure for Cancer: What You Need to Know


This post is by Caitlin Cheadle from Technology – Visual Capitalist


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More than $100 billion is spent worldwide every year in the quest to cure cancer. However, despite this exhaustive effort, the number of cancer cases is estimated to increase by 70% over the next two decades, and is expected to reach 25 million new cases per year by 2030.

Is there a prospect of stopping – or even slowing – the spread of this debilitating disease?

What You Need to Know About Cancer

The below infographic from Healthgrad shows that although there have been huge advancements in the understanding of how cancers behave and the development of more effective treatments, there is still no single “cure” for cancer.

That said, there are some very promising advances in cancer treatment in progress, and we highlight some thoughts on gaining exposure to these companies later on in the article.

Investing in a Cure of Cancer

A Global Epidemic

As the infographic points out, we all have cancer cells

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Bioz pulls in $3 million from Esther Dyson, hopes to become Google for life science research


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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Bioz Bioz, a new search engine for life science experiments, wants to reduce the time it takes researchers to thumb through thousands of science articles published online and get them right to the findings relevant to their search.
The Palo Alto startup does this by offering up article extracts from published science papers using natural language processing. The Bioz platform helps… Read More

Mushroom leather, tiny Zika detectors and lab-made breast milk debut at IndieBio’s third demo day


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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IndieBio Demo Day 3, Folsom Street Foundry July 14, 2016 The accelerator’s demo day has grown so big we’re now live streaming it on TechCrunch. But it was just a couple years ago that the only pure biotech accelerator launched out of SOS Ventures. Many accelerators and venture firms have started to take a keen interest in the space since then, but Indiebio is still the one many look to in the industry for weird and interesting ideas like… Read More

What life science investors got right in this most recent boom


This post is by Connie Loizos from TechCrunch


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Arcturus BioCloud's genome splicing robot. It’s long been the case that life sciences investors don’t get the attention that their more traditional tech counterparts do. They’re underrepresented on lists of top investors in venture capital. They’re also remarkably underfunded, according to institutional investors (or limited partners) who back venture firms. It’s the “life sciences guys who are smart… Read More

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen pledges $100 million toward cutting-edge biotech research


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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Paul_G._Allen Investor, entrepreneur, billionaire and Bill Gates’ other half in the founding of Microsoft Paul Allen has announced a $100 million investment in the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a fund focusing on the future of biotech research. Allen, who is worth about $15.3 billion, announced the investment today at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The purpose of this… Read More

Life Sciences Marketplace Quartzy Raises $17 Million To Build Up The Supply Side


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 6.55.36 PM Quartzy, a lab supplies marketplace, announced it has closed a $17 million round in Series B financing to help the startup build up the supply of lab equipment offered to customers. The startup launched out of Y Combinator four years back and has since partnered with several academic institutions, including Stanford to offer an alternative marketplace for pricier lab supplies. Quartzy does so… Read More

Better Health By Design: Making Healthcare Tech More Usable, Understandable And Profitable


This post is by John Maeda from TechCrunch


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The interplay of health and design isn’t new. In 1857, Nurse (and Data Scientist) Florence Nightingale used design principles to illustrate the casualties of soldiers in the Crimean War and changed national policy. Nightingale showed that soldiers weren’t dying mainly on the battlefield, but instead they were dying in the hospitals due to the poor sanitary conditions there.… Read More

Google patents a system for removing biological tissue with a laser


This post is by Jordan Novet from VentureBeat


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Go go Google laser.


Google has applied for a patent on a surgical system for removing biological tissue with a laser that delivers electromagnetic radiation.

The patent was published yesterday. Google first applied for it in May 2014, long before Google established the umbrella company Alphabet, which includes the standalone life sciences company that was spun out of the Google X laboratory.

Here’s how the technology is described in the patent’s abstract:

An active tracking system includes an imager configured to image the temperature of a biological tissue and a heating laser configured to heat regions of the biological tissue. The imager locates high-temperature regions of the biological tissue and the heating laser is controlled to point toward target regions of the biological tissue based on the located high-temperature regions. The active tracking system can be used to control a heating laser to continuously heat a target region of a biological tissue even

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Genetic researchers have a new tool in API-controlled lab robots


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A Menlo Park, California, startup called Transcriptic opened a unique service to the world’s genetic researchers on Tuesday. Using a set of APIs, researchers can now command Transcriptic’s purpose-built robots to process, analyze, and store their genetic or biological samples, and receive results in days.

The high concept idea, says Founder and CEO Max Hodak, is cloud computing for life sciences — only with “robotic work cells” instead of  servers on the other end. “We see the lab in terms of the devices that make it up,” he said, meaning stuff like incubators, freezers, liquid handlers and robotic arms to replace human arms.

And although Transcriptic’s technology is complex, the process for getting work done is actually pretty simple. Researchers write code to tell the robots exactly what to do with the samples (right now, the company focuses on molecular cloning, genotyping, bacteria-growing and bio-banking), and then they send their samples to the Transcriptic lab. Alternatively, Transcriptic’s robotic infrastructure can also synthesize samples for users.

When the job is done, researchers get their results. That process can take anywhere from a day to weeks, Hodak explained, in part because the company’s operation is still pretty small and in part because “cells only grow and divide so quickly.”

Transcriptic was founded in 2012 and so far has raised $4 million in venture capital from Google Ventures and others.

The molecular cloning process with Transcriptic.

The molecular cloning process with Transcriptic.

Still, using Transcriptic’s service touts a number of advantages for scientists over doing lab work themselves. For starters, robots don’t get tired after long days and so are less prone to mistakes that could end up costing a lot of time to redo later, Hodak said. Because the process is asynchronous, scientists can start analyzing a given job whenever it suits them, and they don’t have to worry about storing the samples or the results in the meantime.

Early users have been university researchers at Caltech, Stanford, Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, but Hodak sees a bright future in the pharmaceutical industry, as well. Already, large pharmaceutical companies are trying to cut costs by by licensing the the discoveries of smaller, nimbler companies. The way he sees it, if Transcriptic can provide these smaller firms with cheap, easy access to research infrastructure, they’ll be more flexible and be able to conduct more-innovative experiments.

“Really, it’s a research problem,” he said, noting that concerns over the cost and difficulty of clinical trials might be overblown. “The resources that you have access to really change the questions you can ask,” he added.

If research labs buy into Transcriptic’s pitch, the company is ready to grow, Hodak said. It will add new services and new instructions for existing services, and has designed its physical infrastructure to scale pretty easily. The company has a dedicated hardware team that designs equipment specially designed for Transcriptic’s unique environment, and that saves the company a lot of money. Its liquid handlers, for example, cost less than 10 percent of commercially available gear and actually improved precision.

“Every time we’ve built infrastructure,” Hodak said, “we’ve saved one or two orders of magnitude on the cost.”

 

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Zephyr Health Lands $15M From Kleiner To Help Life Sciences Navigate Big Data, Bring Therapies To Market Faster


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Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.01.04 AM

The Big Data landscape continued to explode in 2013, as companies across the board scrambled to update infrastructure and technology to meet the new set of demands and opportunities brought on by a brave new, data-happy world. Investors responded in kind, pouring just over $3.6 billion into the Big Data ecosystem during the year, setting off a flurry of activity in the market, from IPOs and acquisitions to new Big Data-centric venture funds.

While hype abounds in Big Data Land, these new technologies can provide the means to more easily collect and analyze data from an array of sources without breaking the bank — a key benefit to industries like healthcare. In the disconnected environment surrounding healthcare and life sciences, companies struggle to glean insight from the variety of data and fragmented sources where that data lives — at scale — while managing costs.

After five years of mining Johnson & Johnson’s diverse data sets to help physicians identify better therapies, William King launched Zephyr Health in 2011 to help life science companies improve research and reduce the time it takes to bring their therapies to market.

Today, Zephyr Health joined the growing ranks of Big Data startups in healthcare and life sciences drawing big money from investors, announcing $15 million in new venture financing in a round co-led by Kleiner Perkins and Jafco Ventures. As a result of the new investment, Kleiner partner Brook Byers and Jafco Partner Joe Horowitz will be joining the startup’s board of directors.

The appeal of Zephyr Health’s platform compared to others bringing Big Data tools to life sciences, like the recently-funded ClearDATA for example, is that it combines NoSQL databases, machine-learning algorithms and data visualization to help life sciences companies more quickly gain insight a diverse set of data sources. Zephyr leverages these technologies to help companies improve their R&D efforts and bring new treatments to the right physicians in the healthcare funnel, reducing the cost and time it takes to complete research and bring therapies to market.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.02.08 AMHowever, in an industry where companies are scampering to move to the cloud and take advantage of the efficiencies Big Data tools can provide, Zephyr wants to increase its value proposition for industry players by going beyond data integration — something a host of solutions now offer, whether industry-specific or not. To do that, Zephyr not only processed data from multiple sources, but funnels that data into a suite of proprietary apps that have been designed specifically to handle life science information.

Through the suite of apps, companies can view their data within contexts or scenarios that are endemic to the research and development of therapies. For example, companies can use one app to see how different patients reach to a particular drug administered during a trial, or, once the drug is ready to go to market, they can use another app to quickly see which institutions or clinics fit the right criteria and could be potential customers. Furthermore, another app might then allow the company to go deeper and not only see which clinics fit the bill, but view doctor profiles to see which physicians specialize in the kind of therapy or treatment offered by their wonder drug.

Ultimately, by linking key datasets together, Zephyr wants to enable scientists to focus their research, while providing life science companies with a suite of visualization tools to help them accelerate trials and reduce the cost and time inherent to marketing those therapies. Over the last year, the company has begun to see increasing validation of its approach to Big Data in life sciences, as King said that “five of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and device companies” are have become paying customers.

Considering that it can take these businesses up to 10 years and $4 billion to bring a drug to market, it’s no wonder. Any solution that helps drug companies tear down the barriers between fragmented data sets and improve the efficiency of the research and development process — with purpose-built apps that help surface the right information at the right time — is well positioned in an industry racing to move to the cloud.

After two and a half years of bootstrapping, Zephyr will use its new funding to help ramp up hiring, particularly in engineering, and begin more actively marketing its solution among industry players.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.02.23 AM