Accelerating COVID-19 Testing: Our Investment in SummerBio

Jim Adler
Jim Adler
Nov 18, 2020 · 3 min read

Speed is a startup’s only true superpower. It is critical to a startup’s survival. Speed fuels the startup’s ability to react to competitors, novel challenges, and pivot as necessary. It’s that power to quickly trim their sails that enables them to catch that fortunate tailwind.

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce our investment in SummerBio, an automation-based diagnostics company. SummerBio has not only demonstrated speed in its formation, but speed in its technological solution — COVID-19 testing that is rapid, affordable, and high-volume. We are proud to participate in SummerBio’s $7.3 million Series A round alongside Intel Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, and 8VC.

Based in Menlo Park, California, SummerBio was founded in May 2020 by Roy Feague (co-founder, vice president of data services), Dave Scheinman (co-founder, vice president of automation engineering), and Sasha Seletsky (co-founder, vice president of finance and supply chain). Earlier in the pandemic, people sought COVID-19 tests that would allow them to continue working safely. The idea for SummerBio came from a collective recognition that the existing testing options didn’t serve all needs — where, among other things, the timing of results was too late. SummerBio was formed to offer that better option.

Now, SummerBio CEO Guido Baechler, with two decades of experience with Roche Molecular Diagnostics, is leading a team of life science automation industry veterans, diagnostic molecular biologists, laboratory scientists, public health experts, software engineers, and other specialists. Notably, SummerBio has already partnered with the University of California Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide COVID-19 testing.

SummerBio’s CLIA-certified laboratory in Menlo Park, California. Source: SummerBio LLC.

After my first cross-country trip in months, I recently experienced the SummerBio SARS-CoV2 test first hand. I found it simple, non-invasive, and my peace of mind really appreciated the quick results. The test is administered by a healthcare professional with a gentle nasal swab that goes about one inch into the nasal cavity. Within about 24 hours, results are ready and automatically sent to customers.

The test is a high sensitivity, real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, based on an assay developed at Columbia University. SummerBio manages all transportation sample logistics from the collection site to SummerBio’s CLIA-certified lab to ensure sample integrity and timely delivery. In SummerBio’s lab, testing is done on a fully automated, robotic testing platform capable of processing tens of thousands of tests per day without pooling.

SummerBio’s testing system is streamlined and applies robotics and automated liquid handling in an innovative way to shorten turnaround time and lower cost.

At Toyota AI Ventures, we are committed to discovering technology that amplifies the human experience, and SummerBio accomplishes that by offering an advanced service that is so essential to living more safely during a pandemic. Accurate and fast test results are critical to combating the pandemic’s status and spread.

SummerBio plans to continue increasing the testing capacity of its lab to reach approximately 100,000 tests per day by the end of 2020. We look forward to supporting SummerBio as they scale. To learn more about SummerBio, visit their website or explore our portfolio page.

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