Roche VC fund drives genomics sample prep player to $18.2M Series A

Pleasanton, CA

Roche Venture Fund and 5AM Ventures have led Purigen Biosystems to an $18.2 million Series A round. Purigen will use the money to advance the development and commercialization of a benchtop system for extracting, quantifying and enriching of samples for genomic testing.

Pleasanton, CA-based Purigen has landed the funding on the potential for the technology to improve an important step in the genomic sample preparation workflow. Purigen claims the tool, a prototype version of which is in testing at academic and clinical laboratories, can deliver inline quantification of 100 times greater sensitivity than currently available technologies. And output DNA and RNA that is ready for sequencing within 60 minutes, a timeline and sensitivity that are made possible by its use of an electric field to concentrate the nucleic acids.

“Our proprietary isotachophoresis (ITP) technology enables purification and quantitation of nucleic acid with dramatically increased yields and improved purity from a wide variety of samples including liquid biopsies, fresh or formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues, buccal swabs and cultured or sorted cells,” Purigen CEO and Cofounder Klint Rose said in a statement. Rose, along with fellow cofounder and CTO Amy Hiddessen, previously worked at QuantaLife, a developer of a droplet digital PCR system that was acquired by Bio-Rad for $162 million in 2011.

The technology is based upon disposable plastic microfluidic chips. The chip is loaded with two buffers--one that contains a leading electrolyte with high mobility ions, and another that contains a trailing electrolyte with low mobility ions--and the sample. As the loaded material moves through the system, highly charged DNA and RNA molecules move to the dividing line between the leading and trailing electrolytes, a migration that separates them from the impurities in the sample. Purigen claims the system applies little shearing forces to the sample, thus reducing fragmentation.

For now, the pool of people who have had a chance to test the system in their own laboratories is relatively small. A prototype is in use, but it will take Purigen until the first half of 2017 to get a model ready for commercial sales. Roche’s ($RHHBY) VC fund and 5AM Ventures, which between them list deCode Genetics, DVS Sciences and Foundation Medicine ($FMI) among their exits, are bankrolling this work with the support of existing investors the Stanford-Startx Fund and Western Investments Capital.

- read the release

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