Epic Sciences' CTC cancer tests again draw Roche, Pfizer to investor table

Murali Prahalad

California's Epic Sciences nailed down $30 million in new financing it plans to use to commercialize tests that can detect circulating tumor cells during a patient's treatment, allowing for a more personalized cancer treatment as the disease evolves.

The Series C preferred stock round drew new investors RusnanoMedInvest and Arcus Ventures to the table. Some existing investors also returned to the fold, including Roche Venture Fund ($RHHBY), Pfizer Venture Investments and Domain Associates. Epic previously raised a $13 million Series B in 2012 from Domain, Roche and Pfizer ($PFE) to fuel R&D efforts.

"We are grateful for the support of our new and returning top-tier investors," Epic President and CEO Murali Prahalad said in a statement. "We believe diagnostic tests developed with Epic technology will provide essential, real-time information to support a comprehensive view of a patient's cancer for better therapy matching and drug resistance monitoring."

Epic said that the cash infusion will help it advance development of its tests and also fuel a number of clinical studies that will back 510(k) filings.

Circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, are important because they lead to metastasis by breaking off of solid tumors and heading to the bloodstream, from which they spread to various parts of the body. Epic's blood test tech is designed to quickly detail protein biomarker and genomics changes in CTCs during the course of cancer treatment. The idea is that this allows doctors to screen for any drug resistance a cancer might develop and also find the best possible cancer treatment for maximum patient benefit.

Part of Epic's strategy to build interest in its cancer diagnostic technology is through partnerships. In January, for example, the company linked up with LabCorp ($LH) to make its test available to European drug developers. Their agreement allows Epic to use LabCorp's sample-processing facility in Belgium so it can provide its CTC technology to clients running clinical trials in the European Union.

Epic's technology is exclusively licensed from the Kuhn Lab at The Scripps Research Institute.

In related news, Epic said it has appointed former Life Technologies ($LIFE) chairman and CEO Gregory Lucier as chairman of the company's board of directors.

- read the release