Guardant Health nabs $100M in Series D round to further liquid biopsy ambitions

Guardant Health CEO Helmy Eltoukhy

Guardant Health is charging into 2016 with big plans for growth and recently locked down some funding to help it along the way. The company reeled in $100 million in a Series D round to support development of its liquid biopsy technology as companies look to cash in on the rapidly growing market.

OrbiMed Advisors led the round, and existing investors such as Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Heritage Group also chipped in funds, bringing the company's total amount raised to almost $200 million. The funding points to a bigger trend, CEO Helmy Eltoukhy told FierceMedicalDevices, as more industry watchers sign on to liquid biopsy technology.

"One of the reasons we're able to raise this kind of money in a challenging environment is that investors are seeing the paradigm shift in liquid biopsy," Eltoukhy said. "Many thought that liquid biopsy would be a reflex thing: When tissue isn't there, do liquid biopsy tests as a last resort. What we're seeing is that there's more accurate information from these kinds of tests."

Guardant plans to use the funds across a variety of platforms, including spurring more clinical adoption for its tests, expanding its commercial operations and building out its product portfolio. The company is especially focused on getting reimbursement for its Guardant360 test, which allows doctors to look at genomic alterations in patients with advanced cancers to match them with the best therapy. Guardant already has some studies underway that look at the product's efficacy and plans to flesh them out in the coming year.

"We have to think about how we work with the private payers and public payers like Medicare to get the test reimbursed," Eltoukhy said. "We're making good traction on both sides, and we'll further advance that progress because ultimately, it's in the best interest of the patients to make sure that these tests are done in-network to minimize costs."

With new funding in hand, the Redwood City, CA-based company will also concentrate on its collaborations with drugmakers. Pharma is a "rapid area of traction" for Guardant, Eltoukhy said, and the company recently inked a deal with cancer company Mirati Therapeutics to develop a circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) test for one of Mirati's non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) drugs. "We see further, similar types of partnerships and collaborations with other pharma companies over the year," Eltoukhy said.

Eltoukhy doesn't see the recent surge of growth in the liquid biopsy field dying down anytime soon. Guardant, for its part, is on something of a dealmaking streak, recently teaming up with Flatiron Health to build a cloud-based platform for drug development and Labco Quality Diagnostics' Synlab Group to distribute its products in Europe and Latin America. As liquid biopsy technology continues to evolve, Guardant will capitalize on the trend, Eltoukhy said.

"The fact that you can so easily access underlying genomic information for cancer in a simple blood test will open up a whole array of applications, ones that we haven't even envisioned today," Eltoukhy said. "It's like the wireless revolution, from landlines to smartphones that power economies on increased accessibility. That's the same thing we see happening here, and is a reason for continuing investor support."

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