A Silicon Valley startup company that focuses on screening prospective parents for more than 100 rare inherited diseases has reportedly raised $28 million from private investors to develop new products and market existing genetic screening tests to consumers and physicians in the United States. The latest cash infusion brings San Francisco-based Counsyl’s financing to $93 million. The company apparently entered the screening market after finding that diagnostic testing for complex genetic diseases was problematic and learning that few parents know much about their family medical history. According to chief science officer Eric Evans, “We’ve been surprised to learn that one in two people is a carrier for something.”
Counsyl, which works with physicians and provides counseling services to avoid the types of issues faced by 23andMe, a company that came under scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for direct-to-consumer marketing, claims that it has screened more than 250,000 individuals. Information about the agency’s demand that 23andMe cease selling DNA tests to consumers appears in Issue 69 of this Bulletin.
After filing a preemptive lawsuit seeking a declaration that certain Myriad Genetic patent claims related to BRCA tests are invalid, Counsyl has also apparently begun offering BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 screening to disclose the risk of pancreatic, prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers. Its tests are based on blood or saliva samples and reportedly cost significantly less than those offered by competitors. See Reuters and San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 2014.