- Pioneering research platform, Sano Genetics, raises seed funding
- Start-up set to transform drug discovery and accelerate growth of personalised medicine
9 April, 2019 — Cambridge start-up Sano Genetics has raised £500,000 seed funding for its innovative research platform that is set to transform drug discovery and accelerate the growth of personalised medicine. The company will enable large-scale genetic and medical research without sacrificing data privacy — by putting the patient in the driving seat.
The Sano platform is powering research into many common disorders such as eczema, diabetes and depression, as well as rare diseases like muscular dystrophy. Its people-centric approach has attracted more than 1,500 participants in its first year — who have contributed tens of thousands of pieces of data.
Formerly known as Heterogeneous, the company is aiming to enrol more than 10,000 people, and support half a dozen new research projects by the end of this year. “We want to build the platform that will make personalised medicine a reality,” said Patrick Short, CEO of Sano Genetics.
Unlike traditional genetic data sharing companies, Sano has created what it describes as a ‘transparent’ platform which allows individuals to opt in or out of different studies and share as much or as little information as they wish. “We are passionate about the potential for personalised medicine based on genetic and health data,” said Patrick. “But we are uncomfortable with all the uncertainty around privacy policies and data ownership from the big direct-to-consumer sequencing companies.”
“Our platform allows scientists to do research into personalised medicine, and access dynamic health and genetic data sets, while still giving individuals transparency and control throughout the process. This is not a ‘nice to have’ — it’s an absolute requirement. When people trust in the system, and see the benefits from their participation, they are more likely to take part again in the future.”
Free & easy to use
It’s free to register — people are asked to provide basic information about their medical history to help match them to relevant research studies. If they already have genetic data — from an ancestry test, for example — they can add it to their profile and, with their consent, this can also be used in research. The company also works to match people with a research project that can fund the cost of DNA sequencing. Participants are given access to free personalised reports written by research scientists, based on their genetic data.
“This new approach by Sano is very exciting,” said research scientist Dr Mark Kotter, CEO of Elpis Biomed. “Our drug discovery and cell therapy research is often limited by outdated consent models and limited options for keeping in touch with patients to request participation in new studies. Sano’s work to match interested patients and patient groups with research projects has the potential to transform drug discovery and personalised medicine.”
Andy Kulina was one of the first users of the Sano platform. His daughter has the rare genetic disorder Phelan-McDermid syndrome, which affects cognitive development, communication and mobility. “I am always looking for ways to access the latest research on my daughter’s condition but rarely get any results or data from the studies we participate in,” said Andy. “Even when results are returned, they are often full of medical jargon. So I really appreciate the way Sano is working to support great research while giving participants full access to data and results.”
Seed Funding Investors
The seed funding for Sano has come from Seedcamp, Cambridge Enterprise, the family office of Paul Forster, Will Neale, Jon Folland, Gordon Ashworth, Ramesh Haridas and Daniel Murrell, along with grant funding from the University of Cambridge, the Wellcome Genome Campus BioData Innovation Centre and the Y Combinator Startup School.
Tom Wilson, an investment partner at Seedcamp, said: “We firmly believe the future of medicine will be more personalised — and the platform Sano is building will provide researchers with the data they need to enable this future. The fact that Sano’s platform can achieve this whilst also allowing patients to be in the driving seat and preserve their data privacy makes it even more compelling. As a founding team, Patrick, Charlotte and Will have perfect complementary skill sets to make their vision for Sano a reality and we’re delighted to be partnering with them as part of this funding round.”
Notes for editors
Sano Genetics is a platform for genomics research with transparency and data privacy at its core. It was originally built as a ‘passion project’ by three PhD students at the University of Cambridge — Patrick Short, Charlotte Guzzo and William Jones — who believe in the potential for the future of personalised medicine based on genetic and health data but are uncomfortable with all the uncertainty around privacy policies and data ownership from the big direct-to-consumer sequencing companies. The Sano Genetics platform aims to allow scientists to do research into personalised medicine, and access dynamic health and genetic data sets, while still allowing individuals to have transparency and control throughout the process.