This Week In Diagnostics

Venture capital deals pick up

Diagnostic companies were the recipients of over $60M in reported deals last week. In a tough financing environment these deals, described below are an encouraging sign and an indicator that the diagnostics sector has become extremely important in the healthcare industry.


Strand Diagnostics raises $30 million

Under a recently reported agreement Strand Diagnostics, LLC says that it will receive up to $30 million in funding from NantWorks, LLC over the next three years. The money will be used to accelerate the company’s growth, scale its operations infrastructure, and expand sales and marketing efforts.

Strand launched their know error® system in 2009 that uses bar coding, forensic principles, and DNA matching for such testing as breast biopsies and prostate biopsies.


$14M financing for Good Start Genetics

Cambridge-based Good Start Genetics,™ Inc., a molecular diagnostics company developing a new gold standard in carrier screening, said that it had completed the initial closing of a $14 million Series B preferred stock financing, which was led by existing investors OrbiMed Advisors, Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. (NYSE: SFE) and SV Life Sciences. According to the company they will direct this funding towards commercialization efforts for their pre-conception carrier screening tests, and to support continued R&D efforts around its proprietary technology platform for future applications.


MolecularMD closes $6M financing

MolecularMD Corp. (Portland. OR) reports that it has closed a $6 million Series B equity financing led by existing investor, Ballast Point Ventures and joined by a new investor Nextech Invest, Ltd. Proceeds from the investment will be used to accelerate the commercial launch of new platforms and related assay content in such areas such as next generation sequencing and rare mutant detection. MolecularMD plans to submit a companion diagnostic test for regulatory approval in 2012 in connection with Ponatinib, a pan-BCR-ABL inhibitor of BCR-ABL1 developed by Ariad Pharmaceuticals.


Genalyte raises financing

Genalyte, Inc. (San Diego) a life sciences company developing and commercializing innovative next-generation multiplexing technology said that it has completed an $11.8 million Series B financing. New investors Redmile Group and Claremont Creek Ventures and private investors from Genalyte’s Series A round participated in the current round. Genalyte intends to use the new funds primarily for commercialization of its Maverick™ platform that employs a technology called silicon photonics to directly measure protein binding between antibodies and antigens or hybridization of nucleic acids.


GE Healthcare and Dyax enter into licensing agreement

GE Healthcare, a unit of GE (NYSE:GE), and Dyax Corp. (NASDAQ:DYAX) are reporting that they have entered into a licensing agreement for the development and commercialization of peptides binding to c-Met. Research of potential diagnostic applications and use as a patient selection biomarker in oncology will be explored by GE Healthcare in collaboration with academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies. The license includes application of the peptides in positron emission tomography (PET), single proton emission computed tomography (SPECT), and optical imaging.  The agreement provides upfront, milestone, and royalty payments to Dyax.


Life Technologies expands detection assays

Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) says that it has expanded its TaqMan® Mutation Detection Assays — molecular analysis research tools, available for research use only, that are designed to detect an additional 241 of the most common mutations in 21 cancer genes. The assays can screen for extremely minute levels of mutations in heterogenous samples and achieve results in three hours. In addition to the three genes – KRAS, BRAF and EGFR – covered in the company’s early release program last year, detection assays are now available for 21 more genes that are highly relevant for cancer research, including HRAS, NRAS, PIK3CA, KIT, PTEN and TP53, among others.


Alzheimer’s disease biomarker study

Proteome Sciences (London, UK), in collaboration with the National Institute for Health

Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health and Merck Millipore report the completion of a large, 1,000 sample Alzheimer’s disease (AD) biomarker validation study. Preliminary results indicate that these biomarkers have significant potential diagnostic and prognostic utility that could form the basis of a series of simple blood tests for the diagnosis and management of AD.

Three biomarker panels in blood, each containing between 11 and 16 proteins, have been identified, which can discriminate between mild cognitive impairment (a syndrome often preceding AD), AD and control groups respectively. Proteome Sciences is filing further intellectual property around these panels, which include and combine markers covered by existing patents with additional newly validated biomarkers. The study focused on the analysis of over 40 protein biomarkers in a group of 1,000 individuals comprising patients with a clinical diagnosis of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease or Mild Cognitive Impairment and appropriate age- and sex-matched controls. For each individual a single sample of blood plasma was tested.

AD biomarker and diagnostic development currently involves either cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) measurements or brain imaging via magnetic resonance imaging – technologies that do not easily lend themselves to diagnostic screening on a wide scale. In contrast, the company believes that commercialization of a diagnostic that is based on plasma biomarkers would provide a screening approach for the disease.


Next Generation Molecular Diagnostics

12 – 13 June 2012, Movenpick Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic


-Peter Winter

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