Sano Genetics, a startup with a broad mission to support personalised medicine research by increasing participation in clinical trials, has raised £2.5 million in seed funding.
The round is led by Episode1 Ventures, alongside Seedcamp, Cambridge Enterprise, January Ventures and several Europe and U.S.-based angel investors. It adds to £500,000 in pre-seed funding from 2018.
Sano Genetics says part of the new capital will be to fund free at-home DNA testing kits for 3,000 people affected by Long COVID. It will also further invest in the development of its tech platform and grow the team.
Founded in 2017 by Charlotte Guzzo, Patrick Short and William Jones after they met at Cambridge University while studying genomics as postgrads, Sano Genetics has built what it describes as a "private-by-design" tech platform to help patients take part in medical research and clinical trials. This includes at-home genetic testing capabilities, and is seeing the company support research into multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, NAFLD and ulcerative colitis2, with a research programme for Parkinson's disease on the agenda for later in 2021.
“For participants in medical research, the process is not user friendly,” says Sano Genetics CEO Patrick Short. “There is usually little to no benefit for participants beyond altruism, taking part is difficult and time-consuming and people are also concerned about the privacy of their sensitive genetic and medical information.
“[Therefore], for researchers in biotech, pharma and academia, it is very difficult to attract and retain research participants, which adds substantial costs and time to their research. In particular for research involving genetics and precision therapies, it is doubly challenging to find the ‘right’ patients because genetic testing is not routine in the healthcare system”.
To help solve this, Sano Genetics matches relevant participants to research via its platform. It then makes participation easier by enabling at-home genetic testing and by guiding participants through the process.
“The system is designed so users know exactly what will happen with their data, and we give them straightforward ways to control their data,” explains Short. “We keep our users engaged and involved in the research process by giving them updates on the research they have been a part of, and with free personalised content including genetic reports, and stories from other people like them on our blog”.
A typical end user is someone who has a chronic or rare disease and is using the platform to take part in research that helps them personally (e.g. access to a new therapy via a clinical trial) or to help others like them.
Meanwhile, Sano Genetics generates revenue by charging biotech and pharma companies fees to find the right patients for their studies. “The typical study for us consists of a set-up fee, a per-test fee for our at-home genetic testing and analysis, and a fee for each referral we make of an interested and eligible participant to their research study,” adds the Sano Genetics CEO.