Dx Digest: Biocartis ropes in $1.5M for liquid biopsy R&D; Natera reveals positive data in breast cancer study

Welcome to Dx Digest, where FierceMedicalDevices highlights the highs and sometimes lows of the past week in the diagnostics industry. It was a busy week in the liquid biopsy sphere, with Belgium's Biocartis roping in cash to develop its related tests. Natera also made some progress in the field, unveiling results from a new study showing that its innovative sequencing technology could improve noninvasive cell-free DNA (cfDNA) testing for certain types of cancer. Meanwhile, Quanterix rolled out a next-generation version of its blood biomarker testing device, aiming for an expanded market for its technology. Read on for the details. And as always, feel free to contact us with any comments or questions. -- Emily Wasserman (email | Twitter)

Biocartis reels in €1.4M for liquid biopsy test development

Biocartis has been on a roll this year. In April, the company launched a €100 million ($109 million) IPO, planning to use funds to build out its portfolio with tests for infectious diseases and cancer. Now the Mechelen, Belgium-based company has reeled in more cash to further its endeavors, nabbing a €1.4M ($1.5 million) grant from the Flemish Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) to create liquid biopsy versions of its solid tumor biopsy diagnostic tests for melanoma and colorectal cancer.

The funds will support a partnership between Biocartis and Flemish researchers aimed at uncovering new liquid biopsy tools. As part of the collaboration, Biocartis will work with University of Brussels spinoff PharmaFluidics, Antwerp University Hospital and other researchers to analyze circulating tumor DNA for molecular diagnostic development, allowing "science to move beyond existing techniques in order to develop state-of-the-art early diagnosis technology for cancer detection," Biocartis' head of R&D Erwin Sablon said in a statement. Statement

Natera notches liquid biopsy win in breast cancer study

Earlier this year, Natera ($NTRA) set its sights on liquid biopsy as an area ripe for growth. The company has already made some moves in the field, recently teaming up with the University College London (UCL) to use its PCR system in a lung cancer study to identify cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). In its latest R&D milestone, Natera revealed that its sequencing technology could identify more breast cancer genetic mutations at low concentrations in the blood.

The San Carlos, CA-based company's mmPCR system pinpointed CNVs, or genetic mutations present in many forms of cancer, with 5 times more sensitivity than existing sequencing methods. The findings could mean big things for cancer diagnostics, as Natera's technique only requires a blood draw and eschews costs and procedures associated with tissue biopsy. Along with the company's other sequencing technology, the system "will be able to substantially improve the identification and resulting treatment of many forms of cancer, such as breast, lung and ovarian cancer," Natera's VP of R&D Matthew Hill said in a statement. Release

Quanterix launches next-generation blood biomarker testing device

Quanterix has been working hard to expand adoption for its blood biomarker testing technology, roping in $5 million in revenue during the first half of 2015 to spur growth. The Lexington, MA-based company's Simoa device, which uses ultrasensitive testing to screen for different proteins in the blood linked to diseases, is expected to bring in $150 million in revenue in the next 5 years, CEO Kevin Hrusovsky said earlier this year.

With that in mind, Quanterix is rolling out a next-generation version of its flagship product that's chalk full of hardware and software improvements. "We have experienced rapid adoption of Simoa since our launch last year and have listened carefully to our customers' feedback," Hrusovsky said in a statement. Based on what the company heard, it increased assay robustness, improved multiplex capabilities and usability and reduced sample size for the device, he added, potentially helping Quanterix grab a bigger piece of the market as it mulls an IPO. Statement | More