Biotech Pioneer's Arivale, Banks $36 Million Series B, Trying to Pick Up Where 23andMe Left Off

Published: Jul 14, 2015

Biotech Pioneer's Arivale Banks $36 Million Series B, Trying to Pick Up Where 23andMe Left Off
July 14, 2015
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Seattle-based Arivale announced today that it had closed a $36 million Series B funding round. The round was led by ARCH Venture Partners and Polaris Partners. Also participating was consumer-only venture fund Maveron. The Series A round was led by Maveron and raised about $4 million.

Arivale dubs itself a “scientific wellness company” and was launched in 2015. It intends to mix comprehensive genetic analysis with personal coaching. It set up its program in cooperation with Lee Hood’s Institute for Systems Biology. Lee Hood is one of the company’s co-founders.

The scientific wellness pilot program took blood, urine and saliva samples and utilized fitness trackers and dieticians to help participants understand the genetic tests and develop specific programs and actions they could take. Initially the company plans to charge each participant about $2,000 a year, although Hood expects that price to come down over time. The company expects to launch in the fall in San Francisco and then expand throughout the country over the course of the following year.

Arivale was spun out of something called the 100K Wellness Project, run by the Institute for Systems Biology, which is a nonprofit research group. Hood refers to its basis as P4 medicine, or “predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory.” The idea is to bring in full genome sequencing, microbiome screening, fitness tracking and counseling.

It remains to be seen how, if the company grows, if it will be able to personalize the coaching and counseling. So far, the Arivale coaches are Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN).

“Virtually everyone in Silicon Valley and Seattle recognize that this is a really big, encompassing idea,” Hood told GeekWire. “Frankly, I think this company could be larger and more transformational than any I’ve been associated with in the past.”

That would be a significant accomplishment, if it happened. Hood founded or co-founded 15 different biotech companies, including Amgen , Applied Biosystems, Rosetta, Darwin, Integrated Diagnostics and Indi Molecular. He created the first cross-disciplinary biology department, Molecular Biotechnology, at the University of Washington in 1992. He is also the recipient of the National Medical of Science in 2011 and the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology in 2002.

Arivale has huge potential to disrupt the current healthcare system with scientific wellness, a completely new industry and an untapped market,” said Robert Nelsen, a co-founder and managing director of ARCH Venture Partners in a statement. “It is the first company to combine powerful new scientific discoveries with a coaching model that inspires consumers to take action to improve their wellness.”

The plan doesn’t sound dramatically different than what Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe developed. 23andMe was founded in 2006 by Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza and Anne Wojcicki, and originally it was marketing a saliva-based direct-to-consumer personal genome test. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced the company to pull the product from the market because it was being advertised as a medical device, which required FDA approval, which 23andMe did not have. The kits sold for $99.

23andMe has shifted much of its focus toward research, collaborating with Pfizer Inc. on some genome-wide association studies, surveys and clinical trial recruitment. The company holds genetic data on 800,000 individuals. It also set up a new therapeutics group with Genentech to develop new drugs based on its collection of genetic data.

In June 2015, Google Inc. announced a partnership with the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University to launch a version of Broad Institute’s Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK) on Google’s Cloud Platform. This is designed to provide researchers with access to both Google’s Cloud Platform power and the Broad Institute’s genomic analysis tools.

Arivale is pushing for the consumer market. It currently has 19 employees and expects to have more than 50 by the end of the year. It plans to use the funds it has raised so far toward marketing, testing and growing staff.

Perhaps because of 23andMe’s run-ins with the FDA, Arivale is quick to say that it is not reporting medical genetic results. It is, instead, focusing on genetic information connected to nutritional wellness and lifestyle. “Because we have this longitudinal data on [clients] every four months, we are getting a science-based snapshot of what has been the impact of the changes they have made in their lifestyle choices,” said co-founder and chief executive officer Clayton Lewis to genomeweb. There are “regulatory limits of what we can share out of the gate.”

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