Some prominent people with big money came together last fall to bet on Cambridge, MA-based Foundation Medicine and its vision for using genomic technology to improve cancer care. Now the company has attracted some even bigger pockets to the table.
Foundation Medicine said today that Bill Gates has joined a $13.5 million expansion of its Series B venture financing, along with Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire who invested in Facebook (NADSAQ: FB) and Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA). Evan Jones, the co-founder and former CEO of Digene, also invested, and has taken a seat on Foundation’s board. The investment is being tacked onto the $42.5 million Foundation raised in its Series B round in September, bringing the total haul to $56 million in this round, and about $100 million of total investment in the company since its founding in 2009. The investor syndicate also includes Third Rock Ventures, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Roche Venture Fund and Laboratory Corp. of America.
The big bet at Foundation is about taking advantage of powerful new genomic sequencing technologies to help better personalize cancer treatment. Foundation takes individual tumor samples from a patient, and looks at what’s happening inside them, by analyzing the 200 of the most common molecular abnormalities that could be driving the growth and spread of that tumor. This is different from traditional cancer-marker tests which tend to look for one thing—such as whether a lung cancer patient is among the 4 percent of patients with a mutated ALK gene driving the tumor. By scanning broadly across the genome, and putting together a summary report for the doctor on what’s driving the individual patient’s cancer, Foundation enables doctors to try strategies with targeted drugs or combinations will have the best chance of working for the individual patient.
Foundation began actively marketing its FoundationOne test last June at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, but it was already seeing a surge of demand from physicians before that. For more of the background on Foundation, see this BioBeat column from June and the coverage of its Series B financing from September.