Health, Wellness & Biotech

Orchid Blooms With $4.5M Seed For Preconception Test To Determine Genetic Risks

Couples often aren’t able to know how their predisposition for certain diseases will affect their children’s health, but Orchid wants to change that.

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The San Francisco-based reproductive technology startup was founded by CEO Noor Siddiqui in 2019, after growing up seeing some family members receive “heartbreaking diagnosis,” she told Crunchbase News.

Orchid is now backed by $4.5 million in seed funding from a group of investors that includes Refactor Capital, Village Global, Day One Ventures, Olive Capital and Boom Capital, as well as participation from a group of individual investors. In total, the company has raised approximately $4.6 million, Siddiqui said.

Traditionally, preconception genetic screening analyzed only 2 percent of one partner’s genome and was only capable of detecting rare genetic disorders because genetic datasets weren’t large enough to identify the millions of variants that collectively contribute to risk for major diseases, Siddiqui said.

In contrast, Orchid’s preconception system analyzes both partners’ genomes and assesses genetic predispositions to common diseases, including heart disease, stroke, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer and diabetes.

“In doing research on computer vision, I saw that genetics was becoming a computational science,” Siddiqui said. “Now that sequencing is less costly and data sets are trying to aggregate genomes, we had a goal of being able to measure susceptibility for diseases like heart disease, schizophrenia and cancer using more advanced models, but to bring that technology to couples.”

Orchid offers a “Couple Report” that utilizes an at-home saliva test to analyze each person’s genomes to detect the probability of genetic risks, then models how their DNA together will combine in a future child. If elevated risk is detected, Orchid provides insights to help couples monitor biomarkers, adapt their diet or elect for procedures, such as in vitro fertilization. Couples are connected with a genetic counselor so they can understand the results.

Orchid’s Couple Report

In addition to those services, Orchid will begin to offer an “Embryo Report” for couples interested in mitigating genetic risk to disease, later this year. The company is pre-revenue, so Siddiqui was not able to share growth figures, but said that Orchid started sending out the Couple Report products in April.

“We are doing alpha testing in the Bay Area, so the main next steps are getting couples through the full system,” Siddiqui said.

Refactor Capital invests at the seed stage in biotechnology and health care companies. Zal Bilimoria, co-founder and managing partner, said in an interview. With the advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence being applied to genomics, more testing can be done preconception, which is one of the reasons he was interested in Orchid.

“We were blown away by the founding team and Noor’s ability to build out the technology and bring it to fruition,” Bilimoria said. “The idea of being able to test for common diseases afflicting populations for centuries, and then be able to decide at the stage of IVF which embryo is going to have the lowest risk and not develop that disease later in life, is exciting.”

Photo of Orchid founder and CEO Noor Siddiqui courtesy of the company.
Blogroll illustration: Dom Guzman

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