Embark Veterinary, which provides a dog DNA test that screens for breed identification, traits, ancestry, and genetic disease risk, today announced funding of $4.5 million. Founder Collective led the round, with participation from SV Angel, Anne Wojcicki, and Bill Maris’ new Section 32 fund, among others.
The Boston-based startup claims to test for more than 160 canine health conditions, which include adult-onset blindness, heart disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and gastrointestinal intolerance. According to Embark founder and CEO Ryan Boyko, one common difference between human and canine DNA testing is that dogs have almost twice as many chromosomes as people — 39 pairs versus 23 pairs.
“Dogs have also been bred for centuries to look and behave certain ways,” he wrote in an email to VentureBeat. “This means that dozens of disease-causing genes are found commonly in dogs. In humans, natural selection has mostly gotten rid of genes that cause disease.”
Embark sells its DNA kit for $199 and claims to have sold tens of thousands of them since it was founded in 2015. Dog owners or breeders swab their dog’s cheek and mail the saliva sample back to Embark for testing. Results are available online after four to six weeks.
According to Boyko, the startup performs a genotyping process similar to that offered by 23andMe, but for dogs. “We extract your pup’s DNA and run it on our custom-built genetics ‘chip’, which is a proprietary DNA microarray with over 200,000 genetic markers,” he wrote. “If numbers are your thing, we test about 256 quadrillion (that’s 500 million times 500 million) different possible genetic ancestry combinations for your dog.”
Embark partners with scientists from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to conduct ongoing research into dog genetic testing. They are currently working on tests for hip dysplasia and cancer, among other health conditions. Dog owners and breeders have the option to include their dog’s DNA data in the research.
Other startups competing in this space include Wisdom Panel and DNA My Dog.
New investors Freestyle and Third Kind also joined today’s round, bringing Embark’s total raised to $6.5 million. The startup will use the fresh capital to further develop its product and add new features. “We’re also planning to partner with human biotechnology companies to start fulfilling the promise of dog genetics to promote human health,” wrote Boyko.
Embark currently has 12 employees.