Daktari Diagnostics brings in $13M to fund its HIV test

Daktari's CD4 system--Courtesy of Daktari

Daktari Diagnostics achieved another milestone in its quest to raise $30 million for its groundbreaking HIV test. The company recently brought in $13 million in equity, moving it closer to realizing its original fundraising goal, the Boston Business Journal reports.

The $13 million was disclosed in an SEC filing and concludes the company's C round of funding, according to the BBJ. Lead investors included Merck's Global Healthcare Innovation Fund, Norwich Ventures and the Partners Innovation Fund. CEO Bill Rodriguez did not disclose the total amount the company has collected since founding in 2008, but SEC filings show that Daktari raised at least $30 million in equity, the BBJ reports. The company's most recent funding round brought in $7 million and was announced in a May 2013 filing.

Funds will be used to market Daktari's CD4 system, a portable, battery-powered diagnostic device that counts white blood cells to monitor HIV patients. The Cambridge, MA-based company recently launched its test in Africa but also hopes to introduce the product in emerging markets like Asia and Latin America, Rodriguez told FierceDiagnostics in February.

"It's been 5 years of hard work, and we have a really strong team. We have been on this path in a pretty narrowly focused way since day one and haven't swerved at all in any way," Rodriguez said. "Now that we are here and shifting from research and development to a commercial organization with a global footprint, there are new challenges."

One of those challenges is expanding manufacturing capacity for its HIV test. In April 2013, Daktari announced that it would spend $15 million to build a plant in Scotland to manufacture its point-of-care HIV tests. Earlier this year, the company ramped up its fundraising efforts with plans to raise $25 million to $30 million in Series D financing. Rodriguez began meeting with investors in January and hopes to close a deal later this year, he told FierceDiagnostics.

CEO Bill Rodriguez (right) and co-founder Mehmet Toner--Courtesy of Daktari

For now, it appears as though the company is well on its way to achieving its goals: In February, Daktari won a tax incentive award from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which included $347,000 in tax breaks if the company adds 17 new jobs in the next year. Daktari currently employs 55 individuals at its Cambridge headquarters.

The latest filing also comes on the heels of a $2.7 million grant from UNITAID, an agency hosted by the World Health Organization that invests in companies with treatments and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in low-income countries.

In addition to its HIV diagnostic, Daktari plans on developing tests for hepatitis and tuberculosis. Rodriguez said the company will target its easy-to-use products toward undeveloped markets.

"If you have the right technology that is simple enough it can be used in clinics that don't have the kind of laboratory infrastructure we have here, you unleash a very large volume market," he told FierceDiagnostics. "We're looking at initial product orders in the hundreds of thousands of tests. Ultimately, we will have industry-standard margins in a high-volume setting."

- read the Boston Business Journal article

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