Epic Sciences raised $40 million in a Series D round, which it will use to ramp up clinical studies of its liquid biopsy tests that identify cancer patients who will benefit from specific treatments.
The San Diego-based diagnostics company is using its circulating tumor cell (CTC) detection technology to develop a range of blood-based tests that predict drug response in cancer patients and guide physicians making treatment decisions.
In addition to accelerating clinical studies of tests in Epic’s pipeline, the funding will also go toward expanding the company’s “No cell left behind” platform and improving understanding of cellular factors that drive response or resistance to different classes of drugs, according to a statement.
In July, the company signed on Genomic Health to market its liquid biopsy test that detects a variant of the androgen receptor protein (AR-V7)—which is linked to resistance to hormone therapy drugs—in circulating tumor cells. The pair aimed to launch the test in early 2017, they said at the time.
Research has shown that patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who had detectable levels of CTCs that express AR-V7 had better outcomes when treated with taxane chemotherapy than with androgen-targeting therapies.
“We believe Epic Sciences’ OncotypeDX AR-V7 Nucleus Detect test and its robust pipeline of predictive tests in oncology are truly unique in the industry,” said Jerry Xiao, managing director of Hermed Capital, which led the round. “These tests, enabled by Epic’s sensitive, scalable and distributable rare cell detection technology, have the potential to revolutionize cancer care globally.”
While Epic is focusing on using these tests to guide treatment, a number of diagnostics makers are developing liquid biopsy technology to screen for cancer, a loftier and far more complex task. These include OncoCyte, Guardant and the Illumina spinoff Grail, which recently picked up more than $900 million in the first close of its Series B round.