Clear Labs raises $18 million to expand its automated next-generation sequencing platform for COVID-19 diagnostics
Clear Labs is a Silicon Valley-based biotech startup that uses next-generation sequencing (NGS) to test food for dangerous pathogens like Salmonella. For over six years, Clear Labs has been transforming the food systems with its NGS technology.
Today, Clear Labs announced it has raised $18 million in new funding. The round was led by Redmile Group, with participation from existing investors, including Wing VC, Menlo Ventures, Tyson Ventures, Khosla Ventures, GV, Felicis Ventures and HBM Genomics. This round adds to an earlier $21 million round that Clear Labs raised in October 2018. To date, Clear Labs has raised a total of $62 million in funding.
Now with $18 million in financial war chest, Clear Labs is aiming to leverage its fully-automated, next-generation sequencing platform for simultaneous diagnosis and genomic surveillance of COVID-19, specifically to enhance the availability and quality of COVID-19 diagnostic tests. The existing gold standard diagnostic screening shows 10-30% false negative rates. With such a high rate of false negatives, the other concern is when a symptomatic patient has a negative test result.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are often similar in nature to the common cold or flu, making it difficult to decipher if a test result is a false or true negative. Additionally, testing for asymptomatic patients is nearly nonexistent, preventing officials from fully understanding how the virus has spread. Clear Labs said it saw an opportunity to use its NGS technology to enhance the availability and quality of COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
“We saw an important opportunity to help stop the global spread of COVID-19 with the platform we’ve developed over the last 6 years. Our technology, while built originally for food safety, has become a powerful genomic tool with unmatched cost, time-to-results, and ease of use that can provide great benefit to the clinical market,” said Sasan Amini “Our genomics-based assay not only provides significantly higher rates of accuracy for detection of SARS-CoV-2, it prepares us for the future of the virus. Clear Labs’ technology will be able to keep up with the rapid evolution of viral RNA so that labs, hospitals and even companies developing therapeutics have up-to-date molecular data to power intervention and large-scale epidemiology.”
Founded in 2014 by Mahni Ghorashi and Sasan Amini, Clear Labs touts itself as the world’s first food analytics platform for retailers and manufacturers. The company combines advanced molecular diagnostics with data science to help leading food companies protect their brands and ensure the highest standards of food quality. Clear Labs’ team consists of a group of software engineers, genomic scientists, and food-industry experts to secure the world’s food supply and set worldwide standards for food integrity.
“Our team has been working diligently and tirelessly to deploy our technology to help with COVID-19,” said Ramin Khaksar, VP of R&D. “We hope that the power of our platform and what we’ve built will help us all better understand and act on this virus. We’re grateful to everyone who has been on the front lines, and we’re honored to do our part to help.”
Clear Labs is already working with leading hospitals, universities, and labs on deploying the test and expect to receive the FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) within the coming days.