Andreessen Horowitz, the storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm best known for backing technology companies such as Facebook and Airbnb, is more than doubling the commitment it first made in 2015 to bring engineering to bear on the mysteries of biology and disease.
Encouraged by results from the $200 million Bio Fund it created two years ago, Andreessen today announced the formation of its second Bio Fund, which will have $450 million to invest in startups through growth-stage companies.
The firm began its foray into life sciences investing because the rise of machine learning and deep learning had made it possible to make significant headway into the complexities of biological systems, Andreessen general partners Vijay Pande and and Jorge Conde wrote in a blogpost on the follow-up fund.
Among the dozen companies that received backing from Andreessen’s first Bio Fund is South San Francisco-based Freenome, which is pursuing one of medicine’s Holy Grails—a non-invasive test that can detect cancer early enough to treat it before it becomes life-threatening.
Other companies have pioneered the analysis of blood samples to find DNA fragments characteristic of cancer; but Freenome also looks at other molecules released into the blood by cells, in a search for patterns that indicate the presence of a tumor.
The VC firm’s first fund also invested in companies including Q Bio, Omada Health, twoXAR, Apeel, Cardiogram, and PatientPing.
About 70 percent of the first Bio Fund has already been invested. The second fund will pursue generally the same investment strategy as the first, by backing companies and teams with expertise in both advanced computer science and biology.
Such companies will not only be able to test and characterize existing biological structures, but will also be able to synthesize DNA to specifications, edit DNA sequences, and even design and program new organisms, Pande and Conde wrote in their blogpost.
“We believe that bio today is where information technology was 50 years ago: on the precipice of changing nearly every industry, touching all of our lives,” the Andreessen partners wrote. “Bio is not an industry vertical; it will be a part of every industry. If information technology is about moving around bits of information, bio is about mastering our ability to move around atoms and molecules.”