Chris Gardner and Tyler Wish: 'A globally significant opportunity.'

Chris Gardner and Tyler Wish: 'A globally significant opportunity.'

Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective is leading a US$3 million (C$3.9 million) seed round of funding in St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, calling the company’s work in health data “a globally significant opportunity.”

The parties issued a press release Wednesday saying the other investors in the round were: Killick Capital, the St. John’s investment fund headed by Mark Dobbin; Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, the fund backed by the NL government, BDC Capital and private angels and managed by Pelorus Venture Capital; and Klister Credit Corp., an Ontario investment fund headed by John H. Phillips.

The funding is significant for Atlantic Canada because it’s the first time a Silicon Valley fund has led a seven-figure seed round for one of the region’s startups. VC investors tend to invest in companies close to their headquarters, so it’s noteworthy that a fund in the world’s biggest tech market has backed such a young company.

“Technology is disrupting the traditional drug-discovery paradigm, but these new technologies are starved for ground truth genomic and clinical data,” Zachary Bogue, Co-Managing Partner at DCVC, said in a statement. “We see Sequence Bio as a breakthrough source of both data and insight to improve global health by enabling faster, less-expensive delivery of more effective therapeutics. And while Newfoundland and Labrador is geographically far from Silicon Valley, this is for drug discovery that we’re excited to support.”

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Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of human biology and the treatment of diseases. The company was founded by entrepreneurs Tyler Wish and Chris Gardner to capitalize on Newfoundland’s genetic data. The island has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers. Sequence has signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank.

The company says it is building “the world’s most powerful big data resource for drug discovery” through a 100,000-person genome sequencing project. The company is developing systems that use machine-learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the data and increase our knowledge of human biology. That will, it hopes, lead to the development of better drugs.

“Building a company that can both impact drug discovery and patient care in a meaningful way is important to all of us at Sequence Bio,” said Wish in the statement. “This investment will accelerate our already rapid growth. With this unique network of talent, advisors and expertise in big data supporting us, we have never been better positioned for success in drug discovery and precision medicine.”

Gardner added that Data Collective is “one of the premier venture capital firms” investing in companies involved in Big Data. “Its principals have supported people seeking to disrupt industries for over 20 years, helping create tens of billions of dollars of wealth,” he said.

Last year, Sequence received $1 million in equity funding from Killick and Venture NL. Sequence also said Wednesday that James Hardiman, a partner at Data Collective, will join its board of directors.