SV Bio, Backed by Sequoia, Strives to Make Medical Genomics Simple

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Physicians don’t usually learn much about genetics in medical school, but they increasingly need to know about it. That’s why Dietrich Stephan, the co-founder of Navigenics, is building a new company to give physicians clear and simple information about the genome so they can better tailor treatment to individual patients.

Foster City, CA-based SV Bio, a k a Silicon Valley Biosystems, got started in the summer of 2011 after a series of conversations between Stephan and the people at Sequoia Capital, the big-name high-tech venture firm. Now SV Bio is starting to talk publicly about its work. SV Bio says it has raised an undisclosed financing from Sequoia, and that it has struck a strategic partnership to provide genomic sequencing and interpretation services to the Mayo Clinic. Terms of the Mayo Clinic deal aren’t being disclosed.

But SV Bio has built a team of 20 employees, has set up two sequencing labs in the U.S. and one in Asia, and has been working out the kinks in its service with a group of six beta test groups at places like Sutter Health in California and Dignity Health in Arizona. The plan is to start commercializing the service this quarter, Stephan says.

SV Bio, along with InVitae, Caris Life Sciences, and Foundation Medicine, is one of the emerging players in the “clinical genomics” or “medical genomics” business. The concept is about scanning far-reaching areas of the genome—instead of just looking at one specific gene or small set of variants—in search for information that’s useful for patient care. About a decade after the first human genome sequence was completed, the coming age of the $1,000 genome has made it possible for physicians to start thinking about whether it’s practical to do broader sequencing runs for routine diagnostic purposes.

Dietrich Stephan, Founder and CEO of SV Bio

“We decided we weren’t going to build another DNA sequencing company. It’s a low-margin, commodity business,” says Stephan, the founder and CEO of SV Bio. There has already been significant progress in software that does basic tasks like finding gene variants, and in aligning a new patient’s genome with the original “reference” genome from the Human Genome Project, he says. The opportunity he saw was in a genome sequencing service that could spot the variants that are linked to clear symptoms of disease—an answer that physicians can work with.

“Everybody is backed up at that point,” Stephan says. “We decided to jump in and solve that problem: to simply, accurately and comprehensively move from variants in a genome to a clinical report that’s actionable.”

SV Bio’s vision is to create the network of labs that … Next Page »

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