Micro-cap liquid biopsy Dx player Biocept nabs $15M financing from Chicago growth investor

Aspire Capital is a growth equity firm focused on making direct investments into public companies across various industries. This time around, the firm picked a player in the fast-developing--and already packed--realm of liquid biopsy for cancer diagnostics and monitoring. It's made a $15 million stock purchase agreement with molecular diagnostics company Biocept ($BIOC).

The San Diego, CA-based micro-cap is focused on blood-based liquid biopsies to be used to detect, monitor and determine treatment for cancer. Earlier this month, Biocept disclosed a couple of partnership milestones: one to do a proof-of-concept study in collaboration with Rosetta Genomics ($ROSG) to determine the usefulness of microRNA profiling of circulating tumor cells as part of lung cancer diagnostics, and the other with Baylor College of Medicine to develop a liquid biopsy test for mutations in the estrogen receptor gene, which play a role in identifying the roughly one-third of breast cancer patients who may easily become resistant to Tamoxifen and other endocrine therapies.

"Liquid biopsy represents a fundamental shift in how cancer patients can be diagnosed and monitored, which we strongly believe will translate into better treatment decisions and outcomes," said Aspire Capital Managing Member Steven Martin in a statement. "Biocept is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this opportunity through its capability of assaying both circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA)."

He continued, "By validating the high specificity and sensitivity of its assays through collaborations with renowned research institutions and partnering with additional healthcare payers, we believe Biocept is establishing its position as an emerging leader in the field of liquid biopsy."

Already, Aspire has purchased $1 million in Biocept shares at $1.60 per share, an 8% premium over its Dec. 21 closing price of $1.48. The company has the right to decide to sell an additional $14 million worth of shares, but Aspire has no right to require them at any given time. The share purchase agreement is for 30 months and is tied to the market share price at the time of sale.

The company priced an IPO in February 2014 at $10 per share, but has since seen its share price dwindle. Biocept reported only $392,000 in revenues for the first 9 months of 2015, with a net loss for that period of $12.3 million. It reported sales of 1,065 commercial assays in those 9 months, up from 110 during the same time a year earlier.

"This agreement affords us added balance sheet strength and flexibility as we further expand our menu of commercial assays and continue to drive physician adoption," said Biocept President and CEO Michael Nall. "We are dedicated to providing reliable and actionable molecular diagnostic results that assist physicians in making timely and accurate treatment decisions to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs."

- here is the announcement