TL Biolabs

Andreessen Horowitz Leads $4m Seed Round for Livestock Genetics Startup TL Biolabs

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TL Biolabs, a startup offering $15 genomic tests for beef and dairy cattle, and the software needed to analyze the results, has raised $4 million in seed funding.

The funding will help the startup, which uses proprietary microarray technology to genotype cows, prepare for commercial launch this summer.

The seed round was led by venture capital heavyweight Andreessen Horowitz, out of its Bio Fund run by partner Vijay Pande. 

“We’re very excited to be backed by a VC that brings such a wealth of experience and value-add to the table,” Sam Parlett, TL Biolabs’ chief operations officer, told AgFunderNews. “Being part of their new bio fund is particularly exciting. We see ourselves straddling the boundary between being a hardware and software company, and that fits very well with their fund’s vision.”

Early stage venture fund Refactor Capital joined the round along with UK entrepreneur Josh Buckley, and accelerator Y Combinator. TL Biolabs completed the accelerator program in 2016.

The company’s microarray testing is designed to help farmers predict every heritable trait in cattle from birth— including health, productivity, and fertility. This can enable them to make more data-driven breeding and farm management decisions, such as which calves to keep or sell, and which bulls to breed with which cows.

It has a vertically integrated system, meaning TL Biolabs manufactures its own ear tags to automatically collect tissue samples upon tag insertion. It also stores samples at its facility in Santa Clara, California, and customers can order tests at any time through the herd management software platform, TLBi. The results are returned in around one to two weeks.

“It’s been a dream for decades that a deeper understanding of genetics would greatly enhance animal farming, but the cost has been too high,” Andreessen’s Pande wrote in a blog post. “Current genomics tests — such as next-generation sequencing and SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphism) chips — are still too expensive… and will likely always be expensive given the fixed cost of the chemical reagents involved. A high-quality $15 test makes it possible for farmers to test every animal.”

The origins of the company date back to 2015 when Fred Turner, CEO & CTO at TL Biolabs, won an award in the UK for his work in genetics when he was just 17. As part of the publicity around that, he ended up on an early morning breakfast show. He was then approached by a farmer who had found his current tests to be too expensive and with long turn-around times.

“Fred started doing single-gene tests for that farmer, then for several farmers in the UK, and then started working on inventing a new way to do genomics at a lower cost,” Parlett said. “The decision was made to bring the company to the US for the Y Combinator program in summer 2016. We did the typical Silicon Valley thing of six of us living in a three-bed apartment for three months before raising funding and making further hires.”

TL Biolabs will use the $4 million in funding to build out its core R&D and make hires to its sales and operations teams in preparation for its commercial launch this summer.  

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