Our Approach to Investing in Genomics and Biosciences

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year and a half since we updated our healthcare thesis, as a follow-up to our blog series with Union Square Ventures on the future of healthcare.

While we are still spending time on digital health, we have been focusing more on genomics and biosciences as a means to delivering personalized medicine. I’ve previously written about how excited we are about the potential in this category, but I want to take this opportunity to dig deeper into our current thesis.

And why now? We’re at a significant point where the cost of DNA sequencing has been reduced, which means more genetic data is being collected. In parallel, the cost of computing has dropped so we can perform data analysis and interpretation at scale.

Our Investment Targets

In developing our thesis, we have found it helpful to model the computing tech stack to the workflow of a geneticist or researcher. This gives us a sense of where the opportunities might be.

For example, the tech stack is comprised of hardware (i.e. PCs, phones/tablets, etc.), an operating system (i.e. MacOS, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, etc.), and applications.

Mapping this stack to a researcher’s workflow (and please keep in mind that we’ve simplified things here):

  • Hardware = benchwork (i.e. preparation of bio samples) + data collection (i.e. collection of raw data (usually a “count” of some sort) via sequencing, microarrays, PCR, etc.)
  • OS = storage and computation of raw data in preparation for analysis (i.e. processing it for “readability”)
  • Applications = analysis and interpretation of “clean” data to glean actionable insights

We believe that data will be the key creator of value. As such, we’re focused on companies that:

  • Make the collection of high fidelity health data easy, accessible and affordable for patients and the medical community;
  • Empower consumers with control and understanding of their own personal health data (i.e. take a bottoms-up approach outside of the regulated healthcare system);
  • Have the potential to be a “biobank” with data that can be shared safely across networks;
  • Can provide personalized recommendations and/or enable others to build applications on top of their open platform.

So far, we have made two investments. This past summer we announced Gencove. They’re making genomics accessible and useful to all. Our second investment, which is in stealth mode, is a woman’s health company that non-invasively collects bio samples and provides insight into important biomarkers.

Genomics and biosciences will be an important theme for us in 2018. We’d love to talk to startups who are taking this “full-stack” approach of motivating consumers to collect their health data to ultimately become a bio-data platform that powers personalized medicine.

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