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Embark: Canine genomics company nipping at the heels of human genetics research

Genetic testing for dogs has surged in recent years, fueled by companies that echo popular at-home tests for humans, offering a deep dive into a pet’s genes with the swab of a canine cheek. As people care about their pets and increasingly see them as family members, they want to do something that will expand their value of life. For many dog owners, DNA testing is also a way to get to know their companions better.

There are a few competitors offering canine DNA testing but one company, Embark, gained recognition from many sources as one of the best canine genetic testing kits on the market. Embark’s test technology revolves around proprietary genotyping technology that analyzes more than 200,000 genetic markers; currently two times more information than any other dog DNA test on the market. It can test for over 350 breeds and 200 genetic health risks, as well as physical traits.

According to Embark owners, there is huge potential for dog genetics to deliver advancements in human health, as dogs and humans suffer from many of the same kinds of conditions. Therefore, by studying the genetics of diseases in dogs, scientists may be able to figure out how these originate in humans.

Recent years have shown that there is plenty of opportunity in the pet startup space. During the COVID-19 pandemic, dog ownership spiked as lock downs and isolation made people seek canine companions. Pandemic pet spending sent Embark’s DNA test sales soaring. At the same time, venture capital interest in US pet-focused companies, from nutrition to healthcare, grew 29.5% between 2019 and 2020. Taking advantage of these trends, in July 2021, Embark raised $75m in Series B funding in what the company is calling “the biggest Series B for a pet startup to date.” SoftBank Vision Fund 2 was the lead investor; other investors included F-Prime Capital, SV Angel, Slow Ventures, Freestyle Capital and Third Kind Venture Capital. The new round brought Embark’s total funding to $94.3m and gives it a post-money valuation of $700m.