Sera Prognostics rakes in $20M in Series B round for preterm birth prediction test

Sera Prognostics CEO Dr. Gregory Critchfield

Sera Prognostics roped in $20 million in Series B financing to develop its test for preterm birth prediction, giving the company a boost as it competes for a place in a crowded prenatal diagnostics market.

European investment company Chione led the round, and other investors included Domain Associates, InterWest Partners, Catalyst Health Ventures and UpStart Life Sciences Capital. Salt Lake City, UT-based Sera recently completed enrollment for its Proteomic Assessment of Preterm Risk (PAPR) clinical study of its PreTRM test, a diagnostic tool that uses a routine blood sample collected during the second trimester of pregnancy to determine a woman's risk of preterm birth. Results from the trial, which comprises 5,500 patients from 11 U.S. clinical sites, are expected by the second quarter of 2015.

"This financing commitment from our current and new investors is further evidence of the progress and promise of Sera's novel technology platform," Dr. Gregory Critchfield, Sera's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "Assessing an individual woman's risk earlier enables physicians to act with better information, with the goal of prolonging pregnancy and improving newborn health."

The fresh infusion of funding bodes well for Sera, as it continues to make headway with its preterm birth test. In 2011, the company snagged $19.3 million in Series A financing in a round led by venture capital firms InterWest Partners, Domain Associates and Catalyst Health Ventures. Worldwide, preterm birth affects 15 million infants born each year, and in the U.S. approximately 11% of babies are born preterm, often resulting in long-term medical complications or death, Sera said in a statement. The company's PreTRM test could eventually cut costs associated with preterm birth and provide a more personalized approach to neonatal healthcare.

But Sera is far from the only company charting progress in the prenatal diagnostics field. Big names such as Illumina ($ILMN) and Roche ($RHHBY) are inking deals and ramping up R&D to expand their market footprint. In December, Roche snatched up Ariosa Diagnostics for an undisclosed sum, getting its hands on the company's Harmony prenatal screening tool for genetic abnormalities. Illumina recently announced that it would lend its prenatal testing technology to Australia's Victorian Clinical Genetics Services, allowing the organization to perform prenatal screening at its lab and develop its own noninvasive prenatal test.

- read Sera Prognostics' release (PDF)

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