Rare disease genetic testing shop Centogene raises $28M to fuel expansion in the U.S. and China

Rostock, Germany, close to where Centogene is based. (Courtesy of An-d [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Centogene has raised $28 million to expand its presence in the U.S. and China. The financing sees the rare disease genetic diagnostic specialist turn its back on the venture capital-free approach it took in its early years to bring on board a consortium of investors to support its global ambitions.

TVM Capital Life Science led the round with the support of DPE Deutsche Private Equity, Careventures and CIC Capital. All the VC shops are based either in Centogene’s native Germany or adjacent European countries. But with the organizations having international presences and track records of backing companies that grow internationally, Centogene thinks they can aid its ambition to become a major player in the U.S. and China.

“There is a large unmet need for early and easy diagnosis and treatment of rare hereditary diseases. This creates a tremendous market opportunity for us”, Centogene CEO Arndt Rolfs, M.D. said in a statement. “We are very pleased to have this international investor consortium on board ... [that] provides the necessary access to an international network to realize our vision on a real global basis.”

Centogene laid the groundwork for expanding in the U.S. last year when it hired Thomas Klopack to lead its organization in the key market. The company has also talked up its plans to secure FDA 510(k) clearance for its CentoMD database of rare disease genotypes and phenotypes. Centogene picked up a CE mark for the database in 2015.

Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa join the U.S. and China on the list of regions Centogene is targeting. The company already has some presence in these regions. Management boasts of having analyzed samples from 110 countries but it pulls in far more work from some of these nations than others. The Middle East, with its wealth and high frequency of genetic disease, has been a key driver of growth to date.

Centogene has expanded in these territories to date by setting up subsidiaries and entering into partnerships. The strategy has given the German company collaborators in countries including Colombia, Japan, Lebanon, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These alliances help Centogene to provide genetic testing to people with rare diseases.

In recent years, Centogene has gone from offering single gene tests and panels to providing whole exome and genome sequencing. The whole genome sequencing operation got going late last year when Centogene installed five HiSeq X machines, Illumina’s population-scale sequencing device.

The next step is to finish construction of a new headquarters in Rostock, Germany and potentially look to public markets for more cash. Centogene outlined its plans to IPO last year when it named Richard Stoffelen as CFO.