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Sano Genetics to accelerate long Covid research after £2.5m seed funding

Sano Genetics will accelerate research into ‘long Covid’ after raising £2.5million in a seed funding round.

The investment, along with a grant from Innovate UK, will cover the cost of free at-home DNA testing kits for 3,000 patients suffering long-term effects from a Covid-19 infection.

Patrick Short, of Sano Genetics. Picture: Keith Heppell
Patrick Short, of Sano Genetics. Picture: Keith Heppell

It will also fund further development of the Cambridge company’s technology platform and expansion of its team.

Sano Genetics, which raised £500,000 in a 2018 pre-seed round, aims to increase participation in clinical trials and guide participants through the process using a digital platform and at-home genetic testing technology.

The company was founded in 2017 by Charlotte Guzzo, Patrick Short and William Jones, who met as post-grads studying genomics at the University of Cambridge.

They observed first hand the high failure rate of clinical trials and the poor experience for those taking part.

The company says half of clinical trials are delayed due to recruitment issues and 85 per cent fail as they cannot retain enough participants.

Its approach is to enable precision medicine by providing access to free genome sequencing and analysis for research participants, who own the data and have full control over how it is used.

Sano Genetics is already boosting participation in research into multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, NAFLD and ulcerative colitis, with a research programme for Parkinson's disease due later this year.

The new funding round, led by Episode1 Ventures, alongside Seedcamp, Cambridge Enterprise, January Ventures, and several UK, Europe and US-based angel investors, will extend its work into ‘long Covid’.

Sano Genetics’ dashboard. Picture: Keith Heppell
Sano Genetics’ dashboard. Picture: Keith Heppell

Charlotte, the chief operating officer, said: “We urgently need more people contributing to medical science, but the gap between those wanting to take part and actually knowing how to is huge.

“The scientific community has long relied on time-starved doctors signposting patients to clinical trials which just isn’t an effective way to get decent levels of participation. The pandemic has added further challenges, as many patients with rare and chronic diseases are unable to safely leave home.

“As such, the failure rate of clinical trials is shockingly high which has an enormous impact on patients with unmet medical needs, and financially hurts the companies investing in research. A technology-first, direct-to-patient approach has been long overdue.

“This tranche of funding will help us further develop the end-to-end experience for the many people keen to contribute to personalised medical research, including clinical trials of potentially life-changing medicines and, in doing so, improve the outlook for people living with chronic and often debilitating conditions.”

The company, based in Station Road, has also partnered with Genomics England to develop software to be used by national precision medicine initiatives and improve the participant experience in research.

The intention is to add an important layer of information reported directly by participants, such as daily symptom tracking, or via wearable devices that monitor activity or sleep.

Little is understood about what is being called ‘long Covid’, but awareness of its significance is growing, with patients reporting a range of symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, chest pains and even trouble thinking clearly.

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