Roche Makes $290M Investment in Freenome’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Program

Freenome CEO Mike Nolan

Freenome CEO Mike Nolan/Courtesy Freenome

A little more than a month after Bay Area-based Freenome snagged $300 million in a Series D financing round, the company scored an additional $290 million from an investment made by Swiss pharma giant Roche.

Roche’s investment is aimed at supporting the development of Freenome’s colorectal cancer detection technology. Freenome has developed a machine learning-enabled multiomics blood test for the early detection of colorectal cancer. The company’s technology is being assessed in the PREEMPT CRC study, a registrational trial in the final stages of enrollment. The study is expected to enroll approximately 25,000 patients and is expected to be the largest registrational study for a CRC screening test for asymptomatic, average risk adults in the United States. Data from the study is expected later this year.

Freenome is developing a CRC screening test using a routine blood draw to detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages. It is estimated that approximately 53,000 people die each year in the United States from colorectal cancer. If it is detected early and remains localized, the survival rate is approximately 90%. But, once the cancer spreads, the survival rate falls dramatically to about 14%.

Thomas Schinecker, chief executive officer of Roche Diagnostics, said the investment made into Freenome offers exciting possibilities for the treatment of colorectal cancer.

“We believe blood-based multimodal screening and data-driven medical insights will help deliver personalized healthcare. This investment will be an important step to advance early cancer screening, and we look forward to joining Freenome in this journey,” he said in a statement.

For Roche, the investment in Freenome expands the company’s diagnostic capabilities. The Swiss company already has stakes or ownership in several diagnostic companies, including Foundation Medicine and Flatiron Health.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the world. According to data supplied by Roche, there were 1.8 million diagnoses of colorectal cancer in 2018 with an estimated 880,000 deaths.

There have been advances made in screenings for colorectal cancer. However, 20% of people with the disease have metastatic disease at initial diagnosis

With the Series D financing and the Roche investment, Freenome will be able to extend its multiomics platform with biomarkers for other cancer types. The expansion will enable the company to develop tests for new indications. In February the company is projected to launch additional clinical studies in multiple cancer indications. These studies are expected to hone in on tailored screening capabilities that are based on an individual’s risk, the company said.

“With Roche's investment and expertise, we'll be able to further accelerate and augment the development of our platform to test for additional cancers, and expand our real-world data programs," Mike Nolan, chief executive officer of Freenome said in a statement. "From the beginning, our focus has been on ensuring our tests will be available for everyone and Roche's support brings us closer to making that a reality."

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