Many emerging biotech and genetics startups are amking use of new DNA sequencing (also called Next Generation Sequencing) technologies. These much-hyped advances in sequencing make it cheaper than ever to understand human and animal genomes – opening up many new possibilities for entrepreneurship.
This week, we added startups from University of California-affiliated QB3 to Seedsprint that use this new technology. These startups draw on the vast research resources of the UC system to solve some of the thorniest problems in the life sciences – including cancer treament and personalized medicine.
Today’s new generation of genetics startups illustrates the momentum in this branch of biotech.
DNA sequencing and living organisms
Why get granular with DNA? DNA sequencing can help identify targets for new therapies, fixing medical problems that have been challenging scientists for decades.
Targeted therapies are part of the active field of precision medicine, where insight into an individual’s genes and proteins helps prevent, treat, and diagnose diseases.
When scientists sequence a genome, they “mine” it to find out what’s going on – and going wrong – inside the body, and how different therapies could affect an organism’s health.
The impact for humans is potentially vast, and covers conditions from acne to thyroid problems to cancer.
One fascinating new startup that’s riding the wave of DNA sequencing is BillionToOne. BillionToOne targets a global market of expectant parents. The company can help predict “serious genetic defects” in fetuses with a noninvasive maternal blood test – made possible by new DNA sequencing methods. The company’s founders want to reaplce the current industry standard process, amniocentesis, which carries a risk of miscarriage.
BillionToOne wants to pass down the lower costs of DNA sequencing to prospective new parents – by replacing an expensive, risky treatment with an affordable, safer alternative.
Skin and the science of inflammation
New technologies allow scientists to ask new questions. One example: Is hand sanitizer causing peanut allergies?
AOBiome doesn’t claim such a straightforward relationship – but they do argue that the increasingly sterile environment in developed countries is impacting “our inflammatory system’s ability to appropriately react to self vs. non-self,” leading to more allergies, acne, and other kinds of inflammation.
New knowledge of the “skin microbiome” is empowering startups like AOBiome to invent new biological therapies for the treatment of inflammation.
Their team writes:
“Naked Biome’s ability to expand our database and advance clinical discoveries in human health is driven by [sic] rapidly decreasing sequencing costs and readily accessible skin samples.”
Sign in to Seedsprint to learn about Naked Biome’s technology and industry collaboration goals.
Like cats and dogs
With so much new data to be gathered, scientific reseach and product development sometimes go hand in hand.
Animal Biomehas launched a product to analyze the gut bacteria of pets (cats and dogs). With Animal Biome, pet owners send in a stool sample. In return, the company uses DNA sequencing to analyze and benchmark the animal’s health against other sick and healthy pets, and hopes to offer targeted therapies based on the results.
The foundational research is ongoing, say the company founders:
“We are applying what we learn from your dog or cat’s sample to identify and develop solutions to digestive disorders. Your cat or dog’s sample could provide the missing link we are searching for.”
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