Illumina led the genomics revolution, developing tools that have changed how scientists discover drugs and how clinicians treat patients. Startup Seer is making the case that its technology for analyzing the proteome—the complement of proteins that cells, tissues, and organs produce—will take it to the head of the proteomics field.
On Wednesday the Redwood City, CA-based company revealed $55 million in new financing and spelled out the inner workings of its technology, which the company calls Proteograph, in the journal Nature Communications.
The Seer technology originated in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital lab of Omid Farokhzad (pictured), the startup’s founder and CEO. He took his learnings out West in 2018 and launched Seer with Philip Ma, a former Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) executive and longtime McKinsey partner who signed on as the biotech’s chief business officer. MIT biotech entrepreneur Robert Langer, also a founder, heads the Seer scientific advisory board with Mostafa Ronaghi, chief technology officer at Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN).
As described in the paper, Seer’s Proteograph leverages the properties of nanoparticles to make protein quantification a fast, yet thorough, process.
“Up until now there’s always been a tradeoff between depth and speed, and now we take that tradeoff off the table,” Farokhzad told Xconomy. “We want to put this toolset in the hands of the scientific community.”
In recent months Seer has added two more executives to its C-suite to further its intent to commercialize its technology: David Horn, a longtime Morgan Stanley investment banker, as chief financial officer, and Omead Ostadan, most recently chief product and marketing officer at Illumina, as president and chief operating officer.
“People are going to want to look at large numbers of protein variants across a large number of people in a very, very rapid manner, and that’s just fundamentally a capability that the field doesn’t have,” Ostadan said. “That, we think, is going to fill in a lot of the missing information that not only people who are interested in the proteome are interested in, but the types of information that’s going to enrich a lot of the variants that are out and available in the genomics sector but don’t have function ascribed to them.”
Seer initially planned to use the technology to join the ranks of biotechs looking to develop ways to detect disease early, before symptoms start. But the company has since pivoted and plans to use its R&D efforts primarily to demonstrate to prospective customers proteome analysis and other applications of the suite of products it plans to launch in 2021, which will include reagents, instruments, and software.
“Analogous to other players in the genomics space, you don’t want to be in the business of competing with your own customers, but you want to find all the solutions that they need and make it readily available for them,” Farokhzad said.
This latest financing follows another of the same size, which the company announced in December 2019.
Fidelity Management and Research Company led the funding round announced Wednesday. HBM Healthcare Investments, a new investor, participated, as did earlier Seer investors Invus, aMoon, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, and Maverick Ventures.