PetDx, the startup behind an early cancer-detecting blood test for dogs, raised $62 million in its Series B funding round, company leaders told Crunchbase News this week.
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The San Diego-based startup plans to use its cash influx to get its technology known as OncoK9, which it says can detect 30 cancers from a blood draw, in front of more veterinarians and become a standard test in pet clinics across the country. Cancer is the leading cause of death in pets once they pass middle age, and 1 in 4 dogs will be diagnosed with cancer, according to the Veterinary Cancer Society.
“In many ways, the holy grail for cancer is early detection,” Kalle Marsal, COO of PetDx, told Crunchbase News. “So much of the progress we’ve made on the human side is really primarily because we’re so much better at detecting things early … and animals have not had that fortune of getting those innovations made available to them—until now.”
The financing round was led by LongView Asset Management with participation by Declaration Partners, Torch Capital, Aperture Venture Partners, Valor Equity Partners, Friedman BioVentures, K4 Family Investments and LabCorp.
The recent round brings the startup’s total venture financing to $72 million. PetDx’s $10 million Series A round, which wrapped up in August 2020, was led by Friedman BioVentures with participation from Petco and another undisclosed leading pet health care company. In May, Petco announced it would partner with PetDx to offer the screenings in its on-site pet clinics.
“By adding OncoK9 to our Petco veterinarians’ toolbox, we’ll help more pets and pet parents move quicker from suspicion to diagnosis and treatment, and hopefully from patient to survivor,” Petco CEO Ron Coughlin said in a statement earlier this year.
But Marsal says the startup still has plenty of capacity to add more clinics to its roster.
PetDx has grown rapidly over the past year, starting with eight employees at the start of 2021 and wrapping up the year with about 90. If not for a pandemic that made many of the company’s employees remote workers, they would have already outgrown its current headquarters building, he said.
The company’s goal in the next two years is that every clinic in America—and later outside of the U.S.—would have access to the test. Then it’s a matter of what portion of the country’s approximately 26,000 veterinary clinics that treat companion pets will adopt it.
“Whether that’s 5,000, 10,000 or all 26,000 [clinics], we’ll see,” Marsal said. “It would be great if they all embrace it as quickly as others have so far. It’s really been overwhelming how excited the veterinary community is to have this innovation. We almost can’t keep up with onboarding the clinics because they’re coming to us so fast.”
While PetDx’s blood cancer screening is geared toward canines, Marsal said the company could provide a similar service for cats within the next 12 or 24 months and expand to other companion animal species in the future.
That’s good news for pet owners and vets who may be trying to diagnose an animal that is masking its illness or symptoms, an instinct left over from their ancestors in the wild that knew weakness might make them seem like easy prey to predators.
And, as a cherry on top, the expanded rollout also has potential benefits well beyond the animal world, Marsal said.
“We also have a big opportunity to contribute back to human science because of the similarities of the human genome and the canine genome,” he said. “So, while we’re not necessarily going to develop those therapeutics, we’re already picking out partnerships with both human pharma and animal health pharma companies that want to access all the data we’re generating, and so this is going to benefit humans too.”
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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