NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Seven Bridges Genomics has raised $45 million in a Series A financing round led by Kryssen Capital, an international investment fund that focuses on data-driven ventures.
The company will use the funds to expand the number of national-scale projects that it can tackle, Seven Bridges President James Sietstra told GenomeWeb. The company is already involved in National Cancer Institute's Cancer Genomics Cloud Pilots and the Genomics England UK 100K project and it will continue to support those but it hopes to tap into some of the newer cancer and precision medicine initiatives that have been unveiled in recent months.
"There are a number of projects that are coming out of the [National Institutes of Health] and the White House's [Precision Medicine Initiative]," Sietstra said. "Assuming Congress approves the billion-dollar budget that Obama is requesting to add to the PMI, I think the NIH will play a very large role in that so will organizations and entities ... and we are excited to participate."
This interest in national-scale projects is one of the reasons that Seven Bridges added Tom Daschle, former US Senate Majority Leader and founder and CEO of The Daschle Group, to its board of advisors. "He understands national healthcare policy ... and is going to help us navigate some of the larger precision medicine initiative projects coming out of the White House [and] expanding out from the [Cancer Genomes Cloud]," Sietstra said. The company has also added Kai-Fu Lee, founding president of Google China, to its advisory board, hoping to tap into his experiences with growing early-stage companies.
Furthermore, Seven Bridges has also opened a new office in San Francisco, seeking to recruit talent from the tech-heavy Bay Area to increase its headcount — the company currently has about 200 people on staff across four offices. Sietstra declined to disclose how many people the company hopes to hire but did say that it has doubled its headcount every year for the past three years.
The funds will also support the company's efforts to further build out its platform to expand its business activities with the pharmaceutical industry and other customers. Recently Seven Bridges made its system available on the Google cloud — the platform can also run on Amazon Web Services as well as other private and public clouds. "We do a lot of customization of platforms when necessary for big pharma deals and that requires a bigger business and more financing to justify those investments," Sietstra said.
The company recently received trusted partner status from the NIH which means that it can provide dbGAP authorization to cancer researchers who are interested in accessing restricted portions of the Cancer Genome Atlas data. "[That] has been a great conversation point for us with pharma," he said "because they want access to the cancer data and it's a direct line to getting that access."
The company is also getting more business from translational medical centers who want to use the Seven Bridges platform in their projects and it will continue to cultivate those relationships as well. "We've invested pretty heavily in end-to-end solutions so that we can tie together hospitals, governments, and pharma companies that are actually developing the therapies," Sietstra said. "We can enable a platform solution that allows them to work together and accelerate the science."
Seven Bridges also said this week that the system it developed for the NCI's Cancer Cloud pilot is now broadly available following an early testing phase that began late last year — this is part of the official nine-month evaluation phase for all three pilots that began last month. The company had more than 200 early-access applicants sign up for its early testing phase.
"It was excellent; it not only gave us the opportunity to get feedback from real users but also gave researchers the opportunity to learn a bit about how the CGC works and how it can accelerate their research," Brandi Davis-Dusenbery, senior scientist at Seven Bridges Genomics, told GenomeWeb in an email. "Researchers are really excited to learn more about new technologies that are going to help them improve their science. Engaging with people around how to best make use of the Common Workflow Language and Docker, for example, was some of the most fun we've had."
The company did make some changes to its system as a result of feedback from early users. For example, it changed some of the functionality of data browser for the platform, Davis-Dusenbery said. The browser lets users explore data interactively, including tools for building queries to filter the data using various metadata attributes. "Our core belief on the project was that data needed to be available and useful," she said. "So, we were particularly interested in learning use cases and then tweaking how users make queries."