Renana Ashkenazi introduces us to investing in genomics. As the cost, speed and precision of genetic testing continue to improve, genomics is likely to become a more common treatment modality.
Renana discusses how genetic sequencing, genetic mapping and targeted testing can improve healthcare as well as some of the practical and moral concerns associated with genomics.
Renana introduces us to four fascinating portfolio companies—Navina, Nucleai, Protai and Tingo.
Renana Ashkenazi, General Partner, Grove Ventures
Grove Ventures is a leading early-stage venture capital firm with some $500 million under management. Grove Ventures also supports its portfolio companies with marketing, legal, accounting and personnel resources.
Renana Ashkenazi is a General Partner at Grove Ventures. She brings almost a decade of product and managerial experience in the areas of technology, Global Innovation, and strategic marketing.
Prior to joining Grove Ventures, Renana worked at Applied Materials and was an engineering research fellow at the Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies at Northwestern University developing diagnostic devices for poorly resourced countries.
00:00:59 – If you look at the portfolio, we have about one third of our companies that are hardcore hard tech, silicon tetonics, quantum computers, supercomputers for space, and advanced semi
Grove was established in 2017, and when we started the fund, we had a very strong deep tech thesis. We wanted to be the first one to only invest in deep technologies. But then we realized a lot of people say deep tech and people mean different things. And we also evolved in the types of technologies that we invest in.
And today, if you look at the portfolio, we have about one third of our companies that are hardcore hard tech, silicon tetonics, quantum computers, supercomputers for space, and advanced semi, and about two thirds of the portfolio that is much more general tech.
So we do a lot of DevOps, dev tools, cloud infrastructure, innovation, and we have a very large digital health portfolio. By now, we’re investing out of our third fund. So, all in all, managing about half a billion dollars. And our third fund, which we started investing out of in January, is $185,000,000 fund. So we focused on early-stage investments, primarily precede.
00:09:48 – Today you could do a full genetic sequencing, and it cost only a few hundred dollars.
full genome sequencing was performed over a decade ago. What’s happening now is that it’s becoming much cheaper, right? It’s much cheaper to sequence whole genome.
The first one cost over $1 billion, and it took over ten years to perform. And today you could do a full genetic sequencing, and it cost only a few hundred dollars. Just recently, ultimate genomics came out of stealth with a promise of full genome sequencing for $100.
So imagine you could sequence your entire genome instead of just testing for a specific mutation, a specific gene, which is what we used to do, and it now costs barely anything, and it’s very, very fast, right, because sequencing techniques have also improved. If you think about Covet, it took, I think, less than two weeks after the first reported pneumonia case in Wuhan until scientists were able to circulate the genetic sequence of the virus behind Covenantine.
It’s becoming cheaper, it’s becoming faster.
00:28:23 – There are much more polygenic diseases, not monogenic diseases, not diseases that you could identify from a mutation in a single gene …
There’s a group of a few tens of singular genes that are responsible for a specific disease.
But now we know that there are much more polygenic diseases, not monogenic diseases, not diseases that you could identify from a mutation in a single gene, but diseases where variations in hundreds and sometimes thousands of genes, very small variations, can tell us how susceptible we are to specific diseases, chronic diseases, different types of cancer.
And you can only derive those understandings and those combinations of genes that raises a lot of patterns to learn from. So cost sequencing techniques and speed and the amount of data are all drivers or enablers of this genetic genomic revolution.
00:34:47 – The number of genetic tests that those companies are performing or doubling with many millions of users that already have their DNA analyzed and it only continues to accelerate.
what happened was this. I think one of the tipping points was around all of those companies that did direct-to-consumer genetic testing. 23, ANDME Ancestry, Color Helix, all of those genetic testing companies that allows you to, for a few hundred dollars, get by yourself.
You don’t need a doctor to send you to do those tests. You just order them online. And the revenues of those companies, the popularity of those companies has been skyrocketing.
The number of genetic tests that those companies are performing or doubling with many millions of users that already have their DNA analyzed and it only continues to accelerate. The market of genetic testing is in the billions. I think the number for 2026, the last one I saw, was estimated at $17.3 billion.
00:40:16 – there is a small percentage of the population, about 3 or 4% of the patients that have a severe reaction to that drug that might be fatal.
there’s one example that I just recently read about, a chemo drug. It’s called five of you. It’s a highly effective chemo drug, and for most people, it works really well. But there is a small percentage of the population, about three or 4% of the patients that have a severe reaction to that drug that might be fatal. And as you can guess, that reaction is genetic, and it’s based on variations in a specific set of genes. And that’s just one example.
So testing patients for that specific gene before prescribing that specific medication can clearly impact treatment protocol.
So that’s one-way pharma companies are using genomics. It’s called pharmacogenetics, the development of new drugs and vaccines that is based on genomic data and also the understanding of adverse events, efficacy, side effects based on a person’s genetic math.
00:48:46 – What’s not interesting in digital health?
Digital health, very similar to many other aspects of our life. Let’s say health services, very similar to other aspects of our life, has become more and more digital.
And Covet and I’m sorry to bring up Covet, but covet has accelerated the move to digital not only in terms of the types of solutions that were invented and implemented in the past couple of years, but also in terms of regulation, in terms of market education.
We moved to digital very fast. Those are processes that could have taken much longer than they did because we had to.
And we see a lot of interesting trends around remote patient monitoring, improved workflows, everything around AI based drug discovery platforms, and a lot of consumer-centric applications as well.
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