Natera hauls in $54.6M for prenatal Dx

Natera CTO Jonathan Sheena

Natera is looking to bolster its share of the on-the-rise prenatal diagnostics market, raising $54.6 million in venture cash to expand the reach of its Panorama test.

With the new cash, Natera plans to scale up its sales and marketing efforts, making its case to physicians and seeking out partnerships with testing labs around the world, founder and Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Sheena said in an interview with FierceMedicalDevices.

Panorama is designed to detect the chromosomal abnormalities that spell Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, Patau syndrome and Turner syndrome using cell-free DNA found in maternal blood.

Though the prenatal test market is crowded with the likes of Illumina ($ILMN), Ariosa and Sequenom ($SQNM), Sheena said Panorama stands apart from its competitors with fundamentally different technology. Natera's test tracks variations in single nucleotide polymorphism in maternal blood, running the results through its proprietary algorithm and churning out cross-chromosome results with greater than 99% sensitivity for abnormalities like trisomy 21, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13.

"Our accuracy is unsurpassed," Sheena said. "If you look at the data we've presented, we have no false positives and no false negatives."

And that data was enough to convince Quest Diagnostics ($DGX), the largest testing lab in the U.S., to sign on as a distributor when Panorama launched in March. Since then, Natera has inked similar deals with Bio-Reference Laboratories and ARUP Laboratories.

While some of Natera's newly raised cash will go toward tracking down more partnerships, the company also plans to fund new R&D, studying how well Panorama can detect triploidy, a prenatal condition that commonly leads to miscarriages or stillbirths.

"From there, new applications of the core technology are boundless," Sheena said. "We're excited about the data. We're excited about where this is going."

The latest round follows the $20 million Natera raised last year, when it changed its name from Gene Security Network. OrbiMed Advisors and Harmony Partners pitched in for the latest financing, joining previous investors Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Claremont Creek Ventures and Founders Fund.

- read the announcement

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