Daktari Diagnostics reels in $15.5M to fund its portable HIV test

Daktari's CD4 system--Courtesy of Daktari

Daktari Diagnostics closed a $15.5 million Series D round to support development of its innovative HIV test, chalking up a milestone in its quest to raise $30 million in funding for the product.

Eastern Capital and Merck Global Health Innovation led the round, and existing investors such as Norwich Ventures and Partners Innovation also contributed funds. The new investment marks the end of a 5-year journey for Daktari, as the company looked for new funds to expand manufacturing and ramp up marketing for its CD4 system. The portable, battery-powered diagnostic device helps monitor HIV patients by counting white blood cells. Cambridge, MA-based Daktari launched the test in Africa but hopes to introduce the product to emerging markets like Asia and Latin America, CEO Bill Rodriguez told FierceDiagnostics last year.

"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.

The company is also looking to expand its manufacturing prowess, announcing in April 2013 that it would spend $15 million to build a plant in Scotland to manufacture its point-of-care HIV tests. In 2014, the company beefed up its fundraising efforts with plans to raise $25 million to $30 million in Series D financing. Last April, the company brought in $13 million in equity, bringing it one step closer to achieving its goals.

Now, with Series D financing in tow, Daktari is hoping to diversify its portfolio. The company completed clinical validation studies for its CD4 system in January and plans to kick off commercialization for the product this year. Daktari's Virology arm will also add molecular tests for HCV and HIV in a non-PCR format, the company said in a statement.

"We are excited to take the next steps toward becoming a global leader in the emerging field of point-of-care diagnostics," Rodriguez said in a statement. "Our near-term goal is to create a menu of tests for major infectious diseases, all of which can run on the Daktari platform in 15 to 30 minutes. We appreciate the continued support from our investors and our global partners as we expand our menu, and expand our global reach."

But Daktari is not the only med tech outfit developing an innovative diagnostic for HIV. University of Toronto startup ChipCare recently closed an oversubscribed $5 million Series A round to bring its hand-held HIV test to market. The product is slated to hit the market in late 2016, the company said in a statement.

- read Daktari's statement
- here's ChipCare's release