Gut health startup Viome raises $ 54 million to develop cancer diagnostics and sell microbiome kits

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Vio kit. (Viome photo)

Viome Life Sciences raised $ 54 million. The funding will strengthen the company’s efforts to develop cancer diagnostics and support its separate division for consumer products, the CEO said. Naveen Jain in an interview with GeekWire.

Viome’s consumer division offers services to analyze the microbiome, the collection of microbes in the gut and other parts of the body. The Seattle-area company determines the microbiome composition of stool samples through RNA sequencing of bacteria and other organisms.

The company says its AI-based algorithms are capable of providing personalized diet and supplement recommendations. Viome customers can also sign up for a $ 199 / month mailing service for made-to-order supplements and probiotics.

The company has served more than 300,000 customers and expects to reach one million customers next year, Jain said. The new funding brings Viome’s total raised to more than $ 125 million.

Viome it is also developing a saliva test for head and neck cancers that is designated a “breakthrough device” by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which allows access to regulatory advice on the path to full approval.

Naveen Jain, CEO of Viome. (Photo GeekWire)

“We hope to launch many of these diagnostic products for various other cancers over the next two years,” Jain said, adding that such diagnostics could also be saliva-based.

Finally, the company aims to develop products that can predict whether a patient will respond to a particular drug. “And even better, that goal will really be to turn non-responders into responders,” for example by manipulating the microbiome, Jain said.

The company with 155 employees recently hired Emmanuel Hanon to lead its separate diagnostic and therapeutic division by developing such tests. Hanon is the former head of the vaccine group of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which has a partnership with Viome to research the connections between gut microbiome, cancer and chronic conditions such as autoimmunity.

Viome is also well on his way to meeting his own expected goal of $ 100 million in revenue next year, Jain said. The company also recently mated with Nordstrom, which plans to sell Viome kits.

An increasing number of studies have shown an association between the composition of the microbiome and conditions such as diabetes and obesity. This has fueled investor interest in microbiome-focused wellness companies, such as Zoe and DayTwo.

Companies that work on the good microbiome have raised $ 1 billion in venture funds from 2015 to 2020, according to Crunchbase.

But Little is known on the effects of specific foods, nutrients or probiotics on microbiome composition and health outcomes. Some researchers are skeptical of Viome’s claims that he can influence the composition of the microbiome and improve health with his “precision” supplements and probiotics.

“I think this is a very interesting and exciting space and I think there are certain potential implications along the way,” David Suskind mentioned earlier GeekWire. He added, “We’re not there yet in terms of looking at the microbiome and making extensive recommendations for individuals, for now.”

Suskind is a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington. He also co-founded Health of Nimbal last year to provide nutrition and lifestyle advice to people with inflammatory bowel disease, along with medical information and quarterly blood and stool tests to assess their condition.

Viome has published a study in which he claims that his services produce a substantial improvement in anxiety, intestinal diseases and severe depression. The data is published on the bioRxiv prepress service and still need to be peer reviewed.

External researchers have critical state of study. Participants were Viome clients who completed clinical questionnaires about their symptoms, a less reliable measure of health status than physician-led documentation. There was no control arm of individuals who did not use Viome’s services. Furthermore, the study did not specify which interventions led to the changes in health status.

The methodology is “questionable”, Suskind mentioned earlier GeekWire. Jain notes that the study is based on client data, so it’s not designed to be a placebo-controlled study.

Viome customers have also complained about the long lead times of results and the loss of stool samples from the company, bringing Jain to apologize to a private Facebook group for users in July. But Viome returned sooner, Jain said, after moving to a new facility in Bothell, Washington. this July.

“Our average turnaround time has now dropped to ten days and we really hope to reduce that further as we now have such large capacity,” Jain said.

Jain is the founder and former CEO of InfoSpace and also co-founded the public recording company Intelius, as well as Moon Express, which aims to takes paying customers to the moon.

Jain career it was not without controversy: Infospace was hit hard when the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, leading to a flurry of lawsuits involving Jain, other executives and shareholders. Millions of dollars have changed hands in a series of legal agreements to resolve disputes.

Viome, founded in 2016, is Jain’s first life science enterprise.

The latest funding round includes former investors Khosla Ventures, WestRiver Group, Glico, Physician Partners and Bold Capital Group. Ocgrow Ventures is a new investor and its founder and CEO Consul Harish he will join Viome as a council observer. Previous investors in Viome includes Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

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