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In Theranos' shadow, blood testing startup Vital Biosciences collects $48M

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ontario-based blood testing upstart Vital Biosciences revealed it has $48 million in funding, including a fresh $18.56 million Series A round led by Lachy Groom and Northpond Ventures.

Why it matters: Lest readers forget the initial premise of Theranos, the company's initial goal was laudable: Disrupt the $74 billion lab testing industry controlled by behemoths Quest and LabCorp, and put preventive care in patients' hands.

Flashback: Despite Theranos' spectacular fall from grace — complete with federal fraud convictions for both of its top execs — investors’ continued interest underscores the enthusiasm for eliminating traditional blood draws.

Details: Vital's backers include, notably, LabCorp, as well as 8VC, Sam Altman, Marc Benioff, Inovia Capital and Route 66 Ventures.

  • Funds are being used to finish developing Vital's technology and to launch clinical studies, per Bloomberg.

Zoom in: The company presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry — the same as Theranos did in 2016.

  • While Vital is headquartered in Canada, it maintains a U.S. subsidiary that employs roughly a dozen people.
  • The company's core piece of tech is a device that it claims uses 600 uL of blood (roughly a dozen drops) to evaluate 50 commonly used primary care biomarkers in 20 minutes.
  • Its tests would check for blood disorders like anemia, metabolic disorders such as high cholesterol or jaundice, and the presence of substances like vitamins or insulin.

The intrigue: This isn't team Vital's first lab testing rodeo. Several of its co-founders previously started diagnostic startups, with one of them, Elucid Labs, serving as the precursor to Vital and the other, Confer Health, going out of business.

What they're saying: Vital CEO Vasu Nadella told Bloomberg's Sarah McBride that Theranos' floundering continues to serve his startup as a giant warning.

  • "Theranos is also a singular example of what not to do. The debacle has been a lesson, Nadella said, in making only measured predictions and seeking out peer review.
  • "'The fact that Theranos happened raised the bar in a really big way,'" Nadella added. "'There's not a day that goes by where we don’t talk about Theranos multiple times.'"

Our thought bubble: With Theranos serving as an example of precisely what not to do in blood testing, it's possible another startup will pick up where the company left off — with a great idea. Successful execution remains to be seen.

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