Juno Diagnostics is on a mission to make prenatal genetic testing accessible and affordable to all. Juno’s platform enables lab-grade prenatal testing for genetic abnormalities, gender, and twins, using just a few drops of blood.
In recent years, a revolutionary technology has advanced the field of prenatal genetic testing. This method, referred to as cell-free DNA, non-invasive prenatal testing (cfDNA NIPT), can detect small fragments of fetal DNA within a sample of the mother’s blood and analyze these to identify signs of genetic abnormalities in the fetus.
As an example, let’s take trisomy 21, the genetic abnormality behind Down Syndrome. Prior to this innovation, traditional blood serum screening methods could be as poor as 69% accurate and came with an alarming 5% false positive rate. And to make matters worse, these tests could only be conducted after the 1st trimester. With the advent of cfDNA NIPT, screening can not only take place in the first trimester, but now can also be completed with 99% accuracy, a dramatic and potentially lifesaving improvement!
As amazing as this truly is, it turns out that the full picture is not all rosy. While cfDNA NIPT represents a transformative upgrade compared to what came before, its underlying collection methods are still very involved, resulting in test pricing that can be 3-18x more expensive.
This cost difference has created substantial issues with accessibility. Despite recommendations from major professional societies to utilize cfDNA NIPT as a screening tool for all pregnancies, use of the technology to date has been largely limited to high-risk pregnancies (800k per year) and those fortunate to have adequate insurance coverage. Of the 3.4m average-risk pregnancies each year, just 600k currently have access to cfDNA NIPT.
When it comes to patient outcomes, this is a big deal because women who cannot afford cfDNA NIPT are subject to a substantially inferior level of screening.
This means that two women with identical risk factors, may receive different prenatal care services, and therefore potentially have different outcomes in their pregnancy. This may help to partly explain why the US has the highest maternal mortality rate amongst its first-world counterparts, why only 24% of women report their prenatal care quality as Very Good or Excellent, and why nearly 50% of women report medical bill problems on the way out.
In order to make cfDNA NIPT accessible for all women, the world needs a technology that combines the ease-of-use and affordability of traditional serum screening with the accuracy of cfDNA NIPT.
Juno Diagnostics is on a mission to make prenatal genetic testing accessible and affordable to all. The Juno platform enables lab-grade prenatal testing using just a few drops of blood.
In a 1200-patient study, the Juno platform demonstrated its ability to identify genetic abnormalities with 99% accuracy and at a fraction of the cost of traditional screening methods.
Whereas traditional methods typically require large amounts of input sample and trained personnel in medical facilities to collect the sample, Juno’s technology is designed and optimized for ultralow input amounts in low resource settings. This enables a significant reduction in sample volume required for testing, leading to a simplified sample collection procedure, better access to testing at a significantly reduced cost.
A single finger prick is sufficient to accurately test for an expansive array of genetic markers, including Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), 18, and 13, sex chromosome abnormalities, various microdeletions, as well as gender and the presence of twins.
Point of need/ in-home sample collection for high complexity genetic tests without the added costs, long lead times, and phlebotomy requirements associated with current tests, will improve access to vital prenatal health information for millions of pregnant women worldwide.
Given the team’s deep technical expertise with circulating cell-free fetal DNA and its commercialization experience in the field of reproductive health, Juno is targeting a portfolio of noninvasive prenatal tests for its initial product line. Juno has planned the rollout of their first product, a gender test, which can be launched within the next 12 months without needing to go through the FDA approval process.
In addition to reproductive health, the Juno platform has compelling secondary applications in oncology, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases.
Prior to forming Juno, the management team achieved great success at Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM), where they led the development and commercialization of the first noninvasive prenatal test based on circulating cell-free DNA in the United States. In 2016, they sold the company to LabCorp (NYSE: LH) for $371M. Specifically, the Juno team includes Sequenom’s former CEO, CSO, VP of Clinical, and Head of Corporate Development.
In addition, they have recruited additional talent and advisors for the road ahead. The team’s collective strengths include technical and commercial experience in molecular testing devices, prenatal genetic testing, and specifically direct-to-consumer products. They also bring to the table deep expertise in patents, scientific research and publication, and device design/development.
Genetic testing is a $10B total market, $7B of which is focused on reproductive health. The company estimates the gender test alone represents a ~$1B market opportunity.
With a disruptive technology, management team’s track record, and support of strategic investors and KOLs, we believe Juno is highly capable of building a $1B+ company and achieving an exit via acquisition or traditional IPO.
Bioverge access to the round is being enabled through our strong partnership with Zoic Capital, who co-led Juno’s Seed round in 2018. Zoic’s comprehensive diligence efforts and value-added expertise in bolstering Juno IP strategy were two significant factors in our decision to move forward.
Juno represents a rare investment opportunity at the intersection of consumer health, wellness, and genomics. The company’s core technology has the potential to disrupt the field and improve access to vital prenatal health information for millions of pregnant women worldwide. And the Juno team, with its vast experience and proven track record of success in DNA testing, prenatal diagnostics, and direct-to-consumer products, could not be a better suited to accomplish this mission.