Ovation.io has raised the $21.5m in Series B funding in a round led by SignalFire, with contributions by Madrona Venture Group, Borealis Ventures, StageDotO Ventures and industry veteran David Shaw. The money will help bolster the company’s software and data products designed to help accelerate discovery and development of pharmaceutical products as well as molecular diagnostic tests.
Barry Wark, Ovation.io CEO and founder, told Outsourcing-Pharma that a number of factors are impacting interested in genomic research and technologies.
“Outside of the immediate circumstances presented by COVID-19, the larger trend is that medicine and therapeutic development are rapidly becoming both more complex and more data driven than ever,” he said. “The sequencing of the human genome started a genomic revolution in medicine; diseases we used to understand as a single syndrome we now know to have many distinct genomic causes.”
However, Wark added, such precise, complex treatments tend to bear a high price tag.
“Targeted therapies cost billions of dollars and take years or decades to develop. And the precision diagnosis—the testing required to determine which causal variants a particular patient has—is expensive,” Wark told us. “The results of this are twofold: first, fewer therapeutics are developed because development/discovery costs force drug companies to carefully choose the therapies they pursue. Second, many patients that would benefit from precision medicine don’t receive the precision diagnosis necessary to improve their outcomes.”
“There’s no doubt that therapies have advanced dramatically with the advent of genomics and personalized medicines — the challenge is that the resources required to pursue them inherently limit their development and availability to the patients who need them,” he continued. “Identifying a good biomarker early in the lifecycle can reduce the time, cost and risk associated with drug development.”
The Ovation.io technology, Wark commented, is geared toward helping researchers meet the demands.
“Our software gives labs agility to respond to a rapidly changing diagnostic environment, while providing life-science companies new insights to advance discovery and get novel therapies to market faster,” he said.
Ovation is a turn-key, cloud-based platform with configurable, out-of-the-box workflows for molecular tests and integrations, reportedly capable of supporting the needs of a growing lab. The company plans to work with its network of participating labs to develop insights that can help life-science companies reduce the time and cost associated with biomarker discovery.
In biomarker discovery, drug companies identify biological indicators of a disease that can help identify target patient populations for trials of new therapeutics. The complex process takes time can cost millions, and, Wark says, there is growing interest in disruptive technology that helps simplify and shorten the path.
"Genomics is enhancing the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of many human diseases, but it requires an enormous amount of data that's time-consuming to collect," said Carlos Bustamante, professor of biomedical data science and genetics at Stanford University. "With data from Ovation's lab network, we can accelerate what's traditionally a multi-year genomic biomarker project into just months."
However, Wark explains, the tasks require finding answers to a number of challenges and questions, which Ovation.io will work to answer.
“How do we guarantee patient privacy and protection in everything we do? How do we identify, harmonize, and structure data across thousands of labs worldwide to allow labs and researchers to work together? How can we do all of this while supporting our current and future customers through a massively challenging global healthcare crisis?” Wark listed.