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Color Genomics raises $45 million to expand genetic testing

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(Bloomberg) — Color Genomics Inc., the three-year-old startup aiming to democratize genetic testing, sealed $45 million in funding as it seeks to make its tests for cancer more affordable and accessible, the company announced Tuesday.

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General Catalyst Partners, a backer of Snap Inc. and Stripe Inc., led the round of capital that Color will use to further develop its tests and expand its software capabilities. For $249, Color analyzes 30 genes to help people understand their risk for hereditary cancers, such as breast, colon and pancreatic cancer. The company said it will begin offering the test for $50 to first-degree relatives of those identified with a hereditary cancer mutation.

“Society is dramatically under-tested for these genes,” co-founder Elad Gil said in a phone interview. Gil previously worked at Twitter, Google and co-founded Mixer Labs, which was bought by Twitter in 2009.

Color uses a consumer’s saliva sample to map out her genetic code and identify mutations that could increase the risk of cancer, such as altered BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast cancer.

Gil said that while comparable tests range in price from $1,200 to $5,000, Color is using software and automation to make the process significantly cheaper. The company’s machine learning tools can help detect when a consumer may have eaten or brushed her teeth right before providing the sample, which can make the results unreliable. Based on that information, Color can cancel the test, saving money and time. The company has also automated the collection of family history, and robots handle a portion of the lab work. Color is not yet profitable and it declined to comment on valuation.

The Burlingame, California-based company requires a physician to order its test and offers genetic counselors to consumers, addressing some of the concerns that regulators had with DNA-testing company 23andMe over the process of interpreting results. General Catalyst believes Color’s software capabilities will drive growth, said Hemant Taneja, who led General Catalyst’s investment and will take a seat on Color’s board.

“It is really a company at the intersection of genomics and software,” Taneja said. As scientists’ understanding of genetics evolves, he envisions consumers returning to Color for updated information on their risk of disease. “You can always find more and more value out of the data that’s sitting in the Color cloud,” he said.

Color’s other investors include Khosla Ventures, Formation 8, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs. Susan Wagner, co-founder of BlackRock, will be taking a seat on the board. The $45 million Series B brings Color’s total funding to $60 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.


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