Lee Hood’s New Company Snags $30M to Spot Cancer and Alzheimer’s in Early Days

10/14/09Follow @xconomy

Lee Hood, the legendary researcher and entrepreneur who invented machines that made the Human Genome Project possible, has secured $30 million in venture capital for a startup that aims to detect cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s in their earliest and most treatable stages.

The new company is called Integrated Diagnostics, or InDi for short (not Integrative Diagnostics, as previously reported in government filings). The company has secured the first of three tranches of financing in a $30 million commitment from Menlo Park, CA-based InterWest Partners, the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust, and Germany-based dievini Hopp Biotech holding, which is part of a collaboration with the government of Luxembourg, according to a statement.

Integrated Diagnostics, which we first reported on more than a year ago—and again last month when the first public financing document appeared—is working to create a new generation of precise diagnostics. These tests are being designed to take a pinprick of blood and spot signature proteins that are associated with tumors, or Alzheimer’s disease. If successful, this work has the potential to shake up the healthcare system in three big ways, Hood says. It will make it possible for doctors to diagnose diseases much earlier; it will open the door to more individually tailored therapies that will have much greater odds of success; and it will allow doctors to follow up with patients to see if treatments they prescribe are really working at the molecular level, Hood says.

The dream for this company is as bold as anything Hood has done before at more than a dozen companies he has co-founded.

Leroy Hood

Leroy Hood

“This is going to transform medicine,” Hood says. “My view is that P4 medicine—predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory—will emerge over the next five to 20 years, and this is the first step. This is going to be the platform in the initial days.”

The science behind this vision—which Hood and others call systems biology—seeks to go beyond the traditional study of one gene or one protein in isolation. Instead, Hood and his colleagues use high-powered computers to look at full networks of genes and proteins, and how they interact.

“We are optimistic that systems biology will become a critical tool in the development of personalized medicine and believe that Integrated Diagnostics is at the leading edge in this field,” said Julie Eskay-Eagle, head of The Wellcome Trust Health Care Investments, in a statement.

The founding intellectual property for Integrated Diagnostics comes from two main places—Hood’s lab at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle and Jim Heath’s lab at Caltech … Next Page »

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