Color, which started as a genetic testing service, quickly found a second use for its technology: facilitating Covid-19 testing.
The Burlingame, Calif.-based is working with more than 100 companies and governments to facilitate their testing programs, including Salesforce, United Airlines and the state of California, where it is working with PerkinElmer to process up to 150,000 Covid-19 tests daily.
Now, with $167 million in new funding, the company plans to continue to build out infrastructure for testing and other preventive services.
“We realized one of the biggest challenges was how to get healthcare services to people,” CEO Othman Laraki said in a phone interview. “The Covid-19 crisis brought that focus with a lot of clarity.”
Color was founded in 2015, and has since struck several high-profile partnerships. Last year, Alphabet’s Verily brought in the startup to provide genomic services for participants in its Project Baseline health study. It was also tapped by the NIH’s All of Us Research Program to serve as the initiative’s nationwide genetic counseling service.
In May, the company received an emergency use authorization to use loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) technology for Covid-19 testing, which uses a consistent temperature to amplify viral genome segments, instead of the multiple heating and cooling cycles with PCR testing. Two months later, it got the green light to use this technology for unmonitored testing, meaning patients can swab themselves.
Those experiences made Color realize that its biggest value was in this infrastructure that it had created, Laraki said.
“People get excited about the science,” he said. “Really, most of public health is logistics. How do you make basic things available to people where they live and where they work?”
With many states still grappling with how they will roll out Covid-19 vaccines to the public, Color also seeks to support that process. So far, the U.S. has grappled with shortages, wasted doses and challenges in determining how to best distribute a vaccine.
“We’ve had major health needs on the population side for a very long time. It’s been death by a thousand cuts. What’s happening here is we are creating an access model for basic services at key social aggregation points: schools, employers, community settings,” Laraki said. “This is creating a national resource for access and distribution of these services that will outlast the current pandemic.”
General Catalyst and T. Rowe Price Associates led the series D funding round, which values Color at $1.5 billion.
“The opportunity to design the future of public health through technology cannot be overstated,” General Catalyst Managing Director Hemant Taneja said in a news release. “Color understands that often, challenges in healthcare aren’t scientific or medical in nature, but rather due to access barriers. The hyper-scaling of access is perhaps the most impactful function of digital technology – and the fact that Color approaches healthcare from this vantage point makes it among the most important companies in the industry.”
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