Michael Taylor, Former FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods joins Board of Directors

Clear Labs: Funding round will help us reach companies on global scale

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/luchschen
©iStock/luchschen
Clear Labs has raised $13m in Series B funding to expand its software and next generation sequencing (NGS) tests.

It was led by Wing Venture Capital with Google Ventures, Tencent, Khosla Ventures and Felicis Ventures.

The company has raised around $20m to date through prior and seed rounds.

It is aiming for profitability by the end of the financing round or shortly after but said it was case-by-case dependent on market size opportunity. 

Clear Labs said it is investing in the potential of NGS and shares emphasis between generation of new IP/patents and financial goals. 

Advance software and NGS tests

Mahni Ghorashi, co-founder of Clear Labs, said funding rounds function as gateposts for priorities of the company.

“This B round is for commercial expansion and to develop our software offerings as well. We are based out of our headquarters in Menlo Park, California with 20 people and we’re going to double growth and the size of the company in the next round,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“We have been conducting pilots with half of the leading retailers and manufacturers and half have been converted into customer contracts​.”

Ghorashi said it is looking to expand into China within the next one to two years and was excited to have Chinese involvement in the funding round.

“We'll be using the funding on the technology side to expand food testing, for new R&D, new suites of tests on the NGS platform. We are starting in the US and have European customers and then will look at Asia,” ​he said.

“On the lab partnership side, our business model is licensing agreements so they can offer the test to their customers and markets.”

Ghorashi said even in the short life of the company it has seen a dramatic change in awareness and uptick in adoption in the food industry.

“Part of this is the function of the inevitable trend that NGS is going to obsolete legacy methods like PCR as the gold-standard and main form of food testing. Some of the industry understands it is the future and forward thinking brands are investing as part of their R&D programmes,” ​he said.

New regulations like FSMA and increased desire for consumer transparency have increased awareness of the need for air-tight systems.

“NGS technology is a transparent and sensitive technology able to detect trace amounts of contamination, adulteration and pathogen threats and it is universal so all pathogen threats can be assessed to model the likelihood.”

The NGS platforms are getting better, faster and cheaper, following Moore’s Law, said Ghorashi.

“We do a lot around overcoming read-length challenges through the knowhow and trade secrets at Clear Labs. It is the same for bringing down the costs in a way that is competitive and comparable to PCR,” ​he said.

“At this point it is open as a technology to some markets but will open up to other markets in the future. I think we are at a perfect point in time, NGS transforms the way we think of food and the way brands think of food safety management platforms and R&D.”

Acceptance of WGS

The Clear Test offers authenticity for food fraud, GMO testing for supplier verification, allergen testing and WGS for pathogen strain identification.

It pairs WGS technology with an analytics pipeline and proprietary molecular food database, which has more than two million entries.

The next version, expected by the end of 2017, will feature live/dead distinguishing of pathogens.

The current one has quantification of pathogen strains, can calibrate platform sensitivity for quantification thresholds and turn on/off varied testing applications.

Sasan Amini, CEO and co-founder of Clear Labs, said it wants to help customers mitigate risk through data-driven intelligence.

“Both our family of NGS-based food tests and software analytics offerings have huge implications for the scalability and accessibility of food safety and quality measures. This new funding will help us reach food companies on a global scale.”

The company also revealed Michael Taylor, former FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, joined the Board of Directors a few months ago.

They met Taylor through a few channels – initially due to Al Gore and his fun and Dr Margaret “Peggy” Hamburg of the FDA.

Taylor said technologies like NGS are being used by government and industry to investigate and respond to food safety problems.

“As costs go down and speed goes up, it’s only a matter of time before NGS will be applied more broadly to improve food safety management systems and prevent safety problems.”

Taylor is also a senior fellow at Freedman Consulting and serves as an advisor to the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program.

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