Clear Labs, a biotech company that provides automated security technologies to food manufacturers, raised $ 18 million from a number of high-profile investors in a round of financing, including Alphabet’s GV, private equity firm Redmile Group, Menlo Ventures and Khosla Ventures .
The company, based in Menlo Park, California, announced that it would not only use this cash injection to continue to market its food safety product, but also to re-use its next-generation sequencing technology for the clinical market, especially for COVID-19 diagnostics Testing.
Clear Labs was founded in 2014 and offers software that analyzes the molecular composition of foods to help brands ensure the quality of their products and comply with food safety standards, including mitigation of contamination and other risks, as well as evidence that products are GMO-free . Automation is a key facet of the offering, including sample barcode and robotic pipetting, which minimizes the need for manual handling and reduces the risk of human error.
Clear Labs continues to invest in this core business, but also wants to help meet the global need for COVID-19 test technology. Sasan Amini, CEO of Clear Labs, said the company will now offer its entire platform, including hardware and cloud-based bioinformatics, clinical laboratories, academic research institutions and hospitals, to expand its testing capacity and enable “a more accurate diagnostic test result”.
“With COVID, we have found that what we have created for food safety provides us with a platform that is easy to use, inexpensive, and uses DNA sequencing to make the existing standard redundant,” he told VentureBeat . “It could just as well be expanded to the clinical market, and COVID-19 was the perfect opportunity to accelerate our focus within the room.”
One of the main selling points of the technology is its automation, which reduces the need to have specialized operators available at all times.
“The hardware is an integrated system that takes care of sample preparation, library preparation and sequencing, and manages the entire handling of the liquids,” continued Amini. “This eliminates all manual intervention that laboratory operators need – lower costs and dramatically lower error rates – and preparatory work is as easy as existing workflows.”
Clear Labs had previously raised around $ 45 million, and its recent cash injection may be a testament to the urgent need to increase COVID-19 testing capacity, which most experts consider to be an important tactic to contain the pandemic. A few weeks ago, LetsGetChecked provided $ 71 million in new funds to launch home coronavirus test kits.
While a lack of test kits is a major problem in the U.S. and other countries, many of the current screening practices culminate in high false-negative rates. Tests for asymptomatic patients are also limited, which can make it difficult for healthcare professionals to fully understand the spread of the virus. Clear Labs’ genomics-based test promises greater accuracy while keeping pace with the development of the mutated virus.
The company is already working with “leading” hospitals, universities and laboratories to provide the test and expects to receive an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming days.
“The power of the platform is that it can be deployed quickly. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment or extensive training to get started,” added Amini.