Thrive Earlier Detection, one of the companies vying to be the first to commercialize a blood test that can uncover cases of cancer before symptoms arise, has raised $257 million and announced plans to evaluate its CancerSEEK test in a registrational study.
Many cancers grow silently, and once malignant cells are discovered a patient’s prognosis is grimmer than if the disease had been detected sooner.
On Wednesday the Cambridge, MA-based company, which was launched last year by Third Rock Ventures, announced that New York investment firm Casdin Capital and San Diego area-based venture firm Section 32 had co-led its Series B round. CEO Dave Daly says proceeds from the financing will advance its plans to start the biggest trial yet evaluating CancerSEEK sometime in the beginning of next year.
Thrive’s latest announcement comes about three months after the company shared results from a study in which its test was used, in addition to standard screenings, to check about 10,000 women with no symptoms of cancer for signs of a range of types of the disease.
The company in April reported that the test, which was developed at Johns Hopkins University, found more than twice the number of cancers compared to existing screening methods. Cancers in 10 different organs were detected, for seven of which no screening methods currently exist. Data from that study were the first published from a prospective and interventional test of a liquid biopsy designed to seek out multiple types of cancers in a population of asymptomatic patients.
“This data demonstrated that a blood-based multi-cancer platform can in fact very safely and quickly help navigate a patient through the diagnostic process, creating a very efficient journey leading to a rapid intervention with intent to cure,” Thrive CEO Dave Daly told Xconomy.
Results from the study, called DETECT-A, helped the company accelerate its conversations with the FDA, he added.
Now design of the registration trial is underway, he said. Thrive aims to address some shortcomings of DETECT-A, which enrolled solely women through a single health system, by screening men and women at multiple sites across the US. The study will also be larger, although Daly wouldn’t say how many people the company plans to enroll yet.
Thrive has established a lab in Baltimore as well as in Cambridge as part of its preparation for potential commercialization. The company, which launched with about 30 people, now has a headcount of more than 100, Daly said.
Eli Casdin, founder of the eponymous investment firm, joins the company’s board of directors as part of the deal.
Casdin has close ties to the team at Section 32, a relatively new entrant on the venture capital scene that was launched by former Google executive Bill Maris. Casdin and Section 32 both participated in Thrive’s initial financing round, and Section 32 managing partner Steve Kafka—a partner at Third Rock at the time—served as Thrive’s first CEO.
Previously Kafka and Mike Pellini, also a managing partner at Section 32, worked together as executives at cancer diagnostics maker Foundation Medicine. And while Casdin is better known for its investments in public biotechs, the New York-based investment firm was among the investors in Foundation’s $42.5 million Series B financing round. So was Google Ventures, now called GV, which Maris founded.
A slew of new investors, many of which invest primarily in companies that are already public or planning an initial public offering, joined in Thrive’s latest round: Bain Capital Life Sciences, Brown Advisory, Driehaus Capital Management, Intermountain Ventures, Janus Henderson Investors, Lux Capital, Moore Strategic Ventures, Perceptive Advisors, Rock Springs Capital, Sands Capital, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price, as well as others, who were undisclosed. All of its Series A investors also participated, according to the company.
Other companies are developing blood tests to screen for cancer in asymptomatic people.
Menlo Park, CA-based Grail, an Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) spinout, has a few years and many millions of dollars on Thrive. Since its founding in 2016, Grail has raised north of $1.9 billion, including a Series D round of $390 million this May.
The company is studying its early-detection test, dubbed Galleri, in a number of clinical studies that are collectively enrolling tens of thousands of patients. Grail is headed by Hans Bishop, who founded and led Juno Therapeutics until its acquisition in 2018.
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