Why We Raised $21.5M to Transform the Future of Lab Software
Today, I’m happy to announce that we’ve raised $21.5 million in Series B funding from SignalFire, Madrona Venture Group, Borealis Ventures, StageDotO Ventures, and David Shaw. In venture-backed startups, it’s easy to see closing a financing as the goal, but it’s what we’ve accomplished, and where we’re going next, that I’m most proud of.
In the last twelve months, Ovation.io has more than doubled our revenue, grown our patient volume seventy-five fold, and established a rapidly expanding life science business that compliments our existing lab software business. We’ve had the opportunity to make significant contributions to the availability of infectious disease testing capacity in the United States and world wide. Insights from our network of labs have helped drive public policy, and public and private research into the mechanisms, diagnosis, and treatments for COVID-19.
Reaching this milestone is an opportunity to reflect on how we got here and the importance of the problem Ovation.io is driven to solve.
Research and the Challenge of Data Management
I’ve been fascinated by the intersection of biology and technology since I was in high school. I loved molecular biology and was lucky to have a biology teacher who let us learn how to sequence DNA manually using electrophoretic gels. I was inspired when the same teacher returned from a conference with a story about an amazing new instrument that automated DNA sequencing. Our high school lab couldn’t afford an instrument like that, but we did have a new digital camera. I figured there must be a way to take a picture of the gels we were using and to let a computer perform the analysis.
I learned to program and wrote a simple tool for automated analysis of electrophoretic gels. I was introduced to the Molecular Diagnostic Lab at the University of Minnesota by an advisor at my school and we adapted my tool to improve the throughput of the lab’s testing. I patented and sold the technology, and loved every minute of the process.
In hindsight, it seems obvious that I would dedicate my career to using software to improve science and medicine. At Stanford and the University of Washington, I pursued research interests in neurobiology and neuroscience. Each success I had in the lab was due to a combination of help from great colleagues and mentors, and software I built to assist with challenging experiments or data management. By the time I completed my PhD at the University of Washington, I knew two things: first, I was not a great experimentalist. Second, I was deeply frustrated by life science researchers’ inability to mobilize the mountains of data they collected. Most of the data collected by me and others–billions of dollars worth–sits idle on hard drives and servers. Often one researcher’s discarded data is another’s treasure, but almost no one knows it even exists. What if we could mobilize this idle data to the right person at the right time? Would that accelerate researchers’ ability to gain insights into the world’s toughest problems? I felt, intuitively, that getting the right data to the right people, at the right time, would be good for the world.
Delivering on the Promise of Precision Medicine
Medicine is rapidly becoming both more complex and more data driven than ever. The sequencing of the human genome started a genomic revolution in medicine. Diseases we used to understand as a single syndrome we now know to have many distinct genomic causes. For each genomic cause, life science researchers can develop life changing targeted therapies that significantly improve patient outcomes.
Targeted therapies cost billions of dollars and years or decades to develop, however. And the precision diagnosis—the testing required to determine which causal variant a particular patient has—is expensive. Patients often face large out-of-pocket expenses for their testing. As a result, many patients in the U.S. and worldwide that would benefit from precision medicine don’t receive the precision diagnosis necessary to improve their outcomes.
We believe that we can reduce the time and cost of targeted therapy development, and make precision diagnosis more universally available. When we succeed, more people will have access to diagnostics that allow better, more personalized medicine. With more efficient drug development, life science companies will be able to tackle more diseases and develop more targeted therapies because they won’t have to make large bets on a small number of drugs.
Mobilizing Mountains of Idle Lab Data
Our approach is simple: allow patients, providers, diagnostic labs, and life science researchers to work together, on a unified technology platform, towards solutions for more efficient therapeutic development. At its heart, that means using technology to match researchers with the right data, from the right lab, in ways that are up to five times faster than traditional methods. We’ve proven the value of this approach in early projects. But in order to help all patients, we need to do this at an unprecedented scale. And that means solving big challenges. How do we guarantee patient privacy and protection in everything we do? How do we identify, harmonize, and structure data across thousands of labs worldwide to allow labs and researchers to work together? How can we do all of this while supporting our current and future customers through a massively challenging global healthcare crisis?
Big, hairy, audacious goals require an all-star team. We’ve been fortunate to build our world-class team from technology market leaders like Apptio, Microsoft, and Amazon, life science leaders such as ThermoFisher, Roche, and Qiagen, and experts across the molecular diagnostic space. We’re always searching for great minds that like to build and aren’t afraid of really big challenges. Are you one of those? Check out our careers page.
With this funding, we have the resources and team to solve any challenges we face in building a better healthcare world with our lab and life science customers. We’re investing in sales, marketing and R&D to grow our ability to help more diagnostic labs serve patients and providers with best-of-breed lab operating software that supports cutting edge molecular diagnostic workflows. We’re also expanding our life science business, enabling our lab customers to combine their insights to help life science companies bring new therapeutics–and new diagnostics–to patients faster.
It’s a rare opportunity to build a business that does well and does good. We’re fortunate to have created one of these opportunities and I couldn’t be more excited for the journey ahead.