Volta Labs, a bioautomation company developing solutions to streamline the upstream workflows in genomic sequencing, announced it raised $20 million in a Series A funding round. The round was led by Maverick Ventures, with participation from John Stuepelnagel (co-founder of Illumina), Khosla Ventures, Casdin Capital, E14 Funds, Blindspot Ventures and several experienced industry CEOs. To date, the company has raised over $25M in funding.
The company, which was founded in 2018 by Udayan Umapathi, started as a simple exploration with water droplets on a printed circuit board during Umapathi’s graduate work at the MIT Media Lab. The work evolved into building biological automation from the ground up, with a mission to fast-track the next genome discovery.
“This is a golden era for tool building in biology. It’s like the early days of computing wherein the foundational technologies are still being built out,” said Udayan Umapathi, co-founder and CEO of Volta Labs. “From an application standpoint, we are starting with sequencing sample prep, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Together — the engineers, biologists, and systems thinkers on our team — we’re building a universal machine any biologist will want.”
Volta Labs’ platform-based solution for sequencing sample preparation is built on a dramatically simplified version of digital fluidics that leverages several novel inventions in fluidic manipulation. The platform integrates components from electronics, automation, and materials industries with a modern software stack. This has led to novel and enabling sample prep advancements that will be unveiled at the genomics conference AGBT in June of this year.
“Sequencing costs have plummeted, but sample preparation costs have stagnated. Volta’s end-to-end automated approach will address the sample preparation bottleneck and enable further market adoption in sequencing” said David Singer, Managing Partner of Maverick Ventures and Volta Labs board member. “We believe Udayan and the Volta team’s digital fluidic approach will ultimately enable a broad range of workflows in genomics, proteomics, and synthetic biology to be automated.”
While Volta’s current focus is on sequencing sample prep, the company envisions going after a variety of applications in the long run. The platform developed by Volta using a simplified version of digital fluidics and a modern software stack enables the rapid development of new workflows. The company has already developed the proof of concepts for workflows in synthetic biology and workflows for the quantification of proteins.
“While great advancements have been made to improve sequencing readouts, simplifying the front-end of the process has lagged. Volta is positioned to streamline the front-end of the workflow and help serve as a force multiplier for the genomics community,” says John Stuepelnagel, co-founder of Illumina (ILMN) and board member of 10x Genomics (TXG), Element Biosciences & Ariosa Diagnostics.
In addition to John Stuelpenagel, who is joining as a strategic investor and advisor, the round is supported by genomics industry titans. David Singer (Maverick Ventures) was the founding CEO of Affymetrix and a board member of Pacific Biosciences (PACB) and Seer (SEER). Additional participating investors include Anne Wojcicki, the CEO of 23andMe, and existing investor Paul McEwan, co-founder Kapa Biosystems, Agencourt Biosystems.
The capital from this latest investment will accelerate the development of a sequencer-agnostic front-end platform for commercial release in 2023, with a limited release program by the end of this year. To support this effort, the company is actively hiring across engineering, applications, research & development, and sales.