COVID-19 Startups Venture

Armed With New Capital, Clear Labs Expands Technology To Improve COVID-19 Testing

Illustration of doctor opening telehealth portal. [Dom Guzman]

After years of applying its Next Generation Sequencing technology to safeguard the global food supply, Clear Labs is using a new $18 million round of funding to also focus efforts on COVID-19 diagnostics.

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Redmile Group led the latest round of funding for the Menlo Park, California-based company that touts it has the “only automated and intelligent diagnostic NGS platform.” The round, reported on Thursday, also included existing investors, including Wing VC, Menlo Ventures, Tyson Ventures, Khosla Ventures, GV, Felicis Ventures and HBM Genomics.

Since its inception in 2014, the company has raised $62 million. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Clear Labs’ most recent raise was a Series B of $21 million led by Menlo Ventures back in 2018, according to Crunchbase data.

One of the concerns with COVID-19 screening is a symptomatic patient receiving a negative test result, Clear Labs said in a written statement. After seeing the 10 percent to 30 percent false negative rates, Clear Labs said it saw an opportunity to use its NGS technology to enhance the availability and quality of COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

The company says it has developed a turnkey genomics-based assay that hasn’t before existed in the clinical space and will provide a new layer of COVID-19 testing never before possible. In addition, Clear Labs had to tailor its product in such a way—to cater to the food industry—that it made it easier to expand into the clinical market, CEO Sasan Amini told Crunchbase News.

“We had to create a robust product that was fully automated for ease of use, fast to manage food that is perishable and continuous,” Amini said. “Because we had to check all of those boxes to be viable for the food market, transitioning to COVID-19 is much easier for us. It does require changes because you are looking for a different target, the virus versus bacteria, but our overlapping functions allow us to achieve it.”

The goal of the company was always to expand into the clinical space, Amini said. However, the urgency and demand for accurate testing for COVID-19 accelerated the entry point for Clear Labs, he added.

Clear Labs said it is already working with hospitals, universities and laboratories to deploy the test and expects to receive the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization within the coming days.

“We are already in process of shipping the first couple of units; we are just waiting for final approval from the FDA,” Amini said. “We are very confident it should be a smooth application.”

Illustration: Dom Guzman

This story was updated to include company comments.

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