University of Washington spinout Bellwether Bio isn’t disclosing much about its technology, but what it is sharing could be promising news for cancer patients and Seattle biotech alike.
The startup, founded by UW genomics researcher Jay Shendure and technologist Matthew Snyder, is commercializing “liquid biopsy” technology that can test the DNA of a patient’s cancer without performing a traditional, invasive biopsy.
The startup raised an “oversubscribed” seed round earlier this year, according to a press release. Although the company didn’t announce the total, an SEC filing this week indicates it raised $2.7 million. The company declined to comment when contacted today by GeekWire.
Investors include the UW’s W Fund, the Washington Research Foundation’s WRF Capital and early-stage biotechnology investment fund Bioeconomy Capital.
The company is “actively collaborating with leading cancer diagnostics companies to validate and commercialize its liquid biopsy technology,” according to a press release.
Modern cancer treatment tends to rely heavily on testing the DNA of a patient’s cancer cells, normally done by analyzing cells that are collected from a patient’s tumor during a biopsy.
But biopsies are invasive procedures that can be deeply uncomfortable for patients, and sometimes the tumor’s location means it cannot be biopsied at all. That’s where liquid biopsies come in — essentially a blood test that can detect and analyze DNA from dead tumor cells that has been released into the patient’s bloodstream.
The procedure could also detect cancer before a patient shows other symptoms, possibly catching cancer earlier and giving patients a higher chance of getting successful treatment.
The procedure has been generating buzz as a possible game changer for treating and detecting cancer, and possibly other conditions, although it remains in its early stages. Shendure and Snyder have been working on the research through Shendure’s lab at the UW, publishing a proof-of-concept paper on the tech last year.
The robust funding round for Bellwether Bio is also a positive sign for Washington state’s biotech and life sciences industry, which has been lagging in recent years, particularly as state support for the industry has eroded.