Introducing, Volta Labs!
By David Singer and Prateesh Maheshwari
Thursday, March 17
We are proud to announce our continued investment in Volta Labs, leading its $20M Series A funding round, with participation from Illumina co-founder John Stuelpnagel, Khosla Ventures, Casdin Capital, Anne Wojcicki (CEO of 23andme), Paul McEwan (co-founder of KAPA Biosystems & Agencourt Biosciences), E14 Funds, and Blindspot Ventures.
Over the last two decades, the cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted but there haven’t been nearly enough advances in the cost of sample preparation (or “library prep”), a necessary precursor to being able to sequence DNA. Therefore, budgets at laboratories growing DNA sequencing volumes are increasingly consumed by the costs of sample preparation. While robots have been deployed in high volume sequencing facilities, developments for lower-throughput operations have lagged behind.
Volta Labs has built a suite of components aimed at automating the sequencing sample preparation process. Volta Labs is developing a novel platform using electrowetting technology to manipulate fluids on a chip, automating a wide range of laboratory processes in a more highly controlled, effective and efficient modality, e.g., sample prep for DNA sequencing; DNA synthesis; and, eventually many of the emerging “omics”, including proteomics. With regards to sample prep, tens of thousands of labs are preparing samples manually. Automation can dramatically increase the quality and the repetition of sample prep and aid labs in their efforts to be more agile, reliable, and scale operations quicker. Overall, Volta will enable further adoption of sequencing by reducing cost and simplifying the upstream processes.
Since first leading the seed round in 2019, we have been blown away by Volta Labs co-founder and CEO, Udayan Umapathi. He is a thoughtful, driven entrepreneur who is a first principled thinker. He first came up with the idea in 2018 during his tenure at MIT’s Media Lab, where he was exploring microfluidic technologies to make biology look like engineering. Will Langford, co-founder and Head of Engineering, comes from the MIT Center for Bits & Atoms and helps make engineering applicable to biology. The team has done an exceptional job hiring including Abdul Mohammed, Associate Director of Genomic Applications, and recently bringing on a Chief Commercial Officer, Keith Farnsworth.
With this additional round of funding, Volta Labs will accelerate the development of its sequencer-agnostic front-end platform for commercial release in 2023, with a limited release program by the end of this year. To support these efforts, the company is actively hiring across engineering, applications, research and development, and sales — see the roles here.
We are so proud of the work Udayan, Will, Abdul, Keith and the entire Volta Labs team are doing — it’s been an honor to be a part of the journey thus far, and we are looking forward to what’s next.
The views expressed herein are solely the views of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of Maverick Capital, Ltd. or any of its affiliates. They are not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment advice.