Cancer intelligence company C2i Genomics is developing a platform that can perform a whole-genome sequencing using only 2 milliliters of blood, as well as provide 100x more sensitive cancer detection than competitors, according to company co-founder and CEO Asaf Zviran.
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On Thursday, the New York-based company announced a $100 million convertible note to accelerate the clinical development and commercialization of its platform. Behind the note is a group of investors including Casdin Capital, NFX, Duquesne Family Office, Section 32, iGlobe Partners and Driehaus Capital. Additional participation came from The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research, Silver Lake, Alexandria Real Estate, Gordon Asset Management and LionBird.
How it works
C2i’s cancer diagnostics service uses artificial intelligence pattern recognition and the whole-genome analysis to spot trace amounts of cancer much quicker, in about a week, to inform better treatment decisions and ultimately save lives. The company aims to help patients avoid unnecessary overtreatment with toxic chemotherapy or radiation, as well as to prevent them from going without treatment while cancer quietly grows and metastasizes.
That’s important to Zviran who is a cancer survivor and has supported family members through their cancer diagnoses and treatments. Previously in the defense sector in Israel, he was diagnosed with cancer at 28 years old.
“After I went through surgery, I spent most of my time talking to oncologists to understand how treatment optimization works and how they had a lack of tools to do that in an effective manner,” Zvrian said. “I went back to school and got my Ph.D. in genomics and focused on how to use blood samples to monitor cancer.”
He developed the technology for the origins of C2i Genomics for three years before getting to the point where he felt he could create the company in late 2019.
With the note, the company has raised a total of $113.2 million in venture-backed capital, including a $12 million Series A round in 2020, according to Crunchbase data.
“It was a quick fundraising that started in January,” Zvrian said. “We initially looked at equity, but decided with the rapid growth of the company, the market, and the commercialization potential, we thought it would be better to do a note to give us flexibility going into the next fundraising event. We received strong interest, but it was important to choose the right partners.”
James Currier, general partner at NFX, feels the same way. He became acquainted with C2i Genomics through his colleague, NFX’s Head of Bio Omri Amirav-Drory. The seed investor came in for C2i’s seed in August 2019 and stayed for its Series A and the note.
What C2i has been able to do is establish clinical trials with six institutions around the world and prove its technology with data, Currier said.
“The technology, AI and software they built is more sensitive and accurate than others on the market,” he added. “It is time to ramp up the testing and approvals. They have six trials right now, but there are other institutions wanting to be seven, eight and nine. To staff up those CLIA labs, they’ll need cash.”
Meanwhile, with the note closed, Zvrian intends to move quickly from technology development and validation to scale-up commercialization. The funds will be used on R&D, adding staff and getting technology into the clinic. The company also aims to launch its diagnostic indication in the U.S. and Europe.
C2i has a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) lab in Massachusetts and an R&D center in Israel. The CLIA lab was the result of C2i’s acquisition of QNA Dx in March, Zvrian said.
“We are working at better detection,” he added. “We have almost 40 employees and plan to double that number by the end of the year. Our solution is still very new on the market, and with improvement in performance we can do clinical applications not done before. With a cloud environment, every clinical lab will be able to use this to do detection and monitoring.”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias