Oct 22, 2021
MIT Offshoot That Detects Virus in Wastewater Raises $20 Million
(Bloomberg) -- Biobot Analytics, a pandemic-era leader on testing to detect levels of the coronavirus in wastewater, has raised $20 million in funding.
The company is planning to begin testing for influenza as well as SARS-CoV-2 before year-end, and will bring back its initial focus, detecting levels of opioid use, said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mariana Matus.
The funding round drew high interest from investors, and the company is considering another one, Matus said. Founded in 2017 by two women affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Matus and architect Newsha Ghaeli, Biobot now employs 40 people. It says it has tested wastewater in more than 700 locations, including under contracts with the U.S. government and the World Bank.
Biobot is also researching use of its wastewater analysis techniques to identify and track coronavirus variants, making it “more of a tool to catch new threats before we know about them,” Matus said.
The company is currently analyzing wastewater weekly at 130 sites, she said, and is adding a service for workplaces.
Thursday Ventures led the funding round, with participation from existing investors including The Engine and American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. They were joined by new investors including Plum Alley Investments; Anne Wojcicki, CEO of genomics company 23andMe Inc.; and Ginkgo Bioworks Inc. co-founder Tom Knight.
“This past year, wastewater epidemiology changed from being an obscure niche area of science to becoming a central pillar of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Matus said. “And now, in the later stages of the pandemic, it’s becoming a central pillar of preparing for the next pandemic.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.