InVitae, Led by Randy Scott, Goes ‘All-in’ For Genomic Diagnostics

1/18/13Follow @xconomy

You could call Randy Scott an E.F. Hutton for the genomics business. People listen when the co-founder and former CEO of Genomic Health talks. And Scott isn’t just talking. He’s gone “all-in,” putting his time, and a significant amount of his own money, into a new San Francisco company called InVitae. The plan is to develop a kind of dream diagnostic test that would have been quite unrealistic a couple years ago.

“We want to aggregate all the world’s genetic tests into a single assay, for less than the cost of a single assay today,” Scott says. He adds: “It’s kind of outrageous, but it’s eminently doable.”

InVitae—which is Latin for “in-life” and pronounced In-VEE-tay—has stayed stealthy in its early days. But that’s changing this year, as the company has gotten certified to run a central diagnostics lab and it’s gearing up for its initial commercial push.

The company, which combined assets last year from Redwood City, CA-based Genomic Health (NASDAQ: GHDX) and Locus Development, has pulled in $37 million to date from investors that include Genomic Health, Thomas McNerney & Partners, and Scott himself. Scott started moving in this direction back in February, when Genomic Health formed InVitae as a new subsidiary with him as CEO. Six months later, in August, he jumped ship completely for the new company, resigning his Genomic Health board seat. InVitae, which took in $30 million of investment in November, has grown quickly to assemble a team of 40 employees.

“Having done startups before, I’m a big believer that you’ve got to be all-in,” Scott says. “If you want to start something from scratch and compete in today’s world of healthcare, it should consume 150 percent of your time.”

The goal of InVitae, in its early days, is to help geneticists to look broadly for rare, inherited genetic disorders (aka Mendelian disorders). There are thought to be about 1,500 of these rare conditions, which are often hard to diagnose. Sometimes these diseases prompt what Scott calls “medical odysseys” and are only diagnosed after physicians take stabs in the dark by running existing single-gene or multi-gene tests that can only answer narrow questions, and cost several hundred dollars apiece.

InVitae’s plan is to start small, and build from there. While the usefulness of information from consumer-oriented genetics companies (23andMe, Navigenics) has long been questioned in the medical community, InVitae has instead … Next Page »

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