Genomenon Raises $2.5M, Plans to Increase Work with Pharma Customers
Genomenon, the Ann Arbor, MI-based genomics search engine startup, has raised $2.5 million in what the company calls a “seed extension” round.
The equity financing included investments by IrishAngels, a group founded by Notre Dame alumni; H.W. Kaufman Group; Invest Michigan; and all previous investors, including Genomenon CEO Mike Klein. He says the company will use the new capital to beef up commercial development, sales, and marketing. It also plans to add at least three employees, bringing its headcount to approximately 20 by the end of the year.
Genomenon is the maker of Mastermind, an artificial intelligence-powered search engine that combs scientific publications for information on gene variants to help guide doctors to faster and more accurate diagnoses for patients with cancer or rare diseases.
Klein says Mastermind is now used by more than 2,200 clinicians in 35 countries and 200 labs. “We’ve been able to demonstrate we got the business model right, now it’s time to add fire with more investment in sales and marketing,” he says. “We’re at the precipice of three key technologies: big data, A.I., and cloud computing. Our mission is to find every mutation in publications and put it at the fingertips of doctors. We couldn’t have done that even five years ago.”
Klein says that Genomenon’s client base started as mostly cancer and genetics labs but now has expanded to pharmaceutical companies seeking to “leverage data in drug discovery. We can surface any mutation and lay out the entire associated genetic landscape,” he adds. “That will be a big focus for us in 2019: a lot of product development work for pharma.”
Klein gives an example of how one scientific paper can completely change a patient’s outcome. An infant was having a dozen seizures per day and doctors couldn’t land on a diagnosis, so they sequenced the baby’s genome and ran the results through Mastermind. The software found a single paper suggesting the problem might be a nutritional deficiency.
Klein says that insight “changed everything,” and with the proper diagnosis, the seizures soon stopped. “That’s the rewarding part of what we’re doing—the opportunity to change lives in a positive way makes it easier to get up and go to work in the morning,” he says.
Klein describes Genomenon, which spun out of the University of Michigan in 2014, as “a product of the Michigan startup ecosystem.” He says the company would not be where it is today without the support of state-and university-backed programs such as Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC), a collaborative effort between state government and universities to bring prototypes and concepts developed in university labs to market, and Fast Forward Medical Innovation, which helps professors commercialize their research. One of the company’s repeat backers, Invest Michigan, is funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
“These programs really provided a lot of early coaching and non-technical support,” Klein says. “The funding has been critical, but it’s not the only thing. Sometimes it takes a village.”
Denise Graves, the university relations director at the MEDC, says that to date, MTRAC has reviewed 456 proposals, funding 183 of them and licensing 24. Those proposals have yielded 39 startups, created 119 jobs, and generated $127 million in follow-on funding, she adds.
Later this month, Graves says the state is expected to approve a new MTRAC program—which are divided by sector and administered by various Michigan universities—for advanced computing. The new hub will focus on projects related to IT, sensor systems, cybersecurity, A.I., and more. It’s not yet known which university will oversee the new hub.