U.K. startup reels in $45M in JJDC-backed round to boost liquid biopsy ambitions

Inivata CEO Michael Stocum

The U.K.'s Inivata raked in £31.5 million ($45 million) in a Series A round to bolster development for its liquid biopsy test for lung cancer, funds that will help the company set itself apart in competitive field and build on recent momentum.

Existing investors such as Imperial Innovations, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JJDC) participated in the round, and new investor Woodford Patient Capital Trust also pitched in funds. The Cambridge-based company plans to use the cash to drive clinical development of its circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) test, explore the tool's use in other tumor types such as breast and colorectal and to launch early commercial activities, CEO Michael Stocum told FierceMedicalDevices.

Inivata's ctDNA test looks for cancer-related mutations in a simple blood draw, and is meant to offer doctors "clinically actionable" genomic information that allows physicians to choose a specific therapy for patients, monitor treatment and pinpoint new mutations as they crop up, the company said in a statement. With promising data in tow, Inivata is planning to kick off "a number of trials in the EU, U.K. and in the U.S." to drive home the tool's clinical utility, Stocum said.

"It's critical for us to develop the data to support the way a clinical will make treatment decisions and supports the way this test can be reimbursed. This funding allows us to do the studies to show the economic proposition behind the test," Stocum said. "There are a lot of tests available, and we'll find that they're all a bit unique in terms of their sensitivity and the tumor types they can be used for."

The latest funding comes about 16 months after Inivata raised £4 million in seed funds to get the ball rolling on product development. Competitors are flooding the liquid biopsy field and Inivata is not the only company making waves with its tests.

In September, Exosome Diagnostics reeled in $17.6 million in a second round of Series B financing to support the launch of its two blood-based lung cancer liquid biopsy tests and to roll out its new solid tumor panel in 2016. Earlier this month, Guardant Health hauled in $100 million in a Series D round to further its liquid biopsy ambitions. Sequencing giant Illumina ($ILMN) is also getting in on the action through its new liquid biopsy spinoff, GRAIL.

But Inivata remains confident that it can set itself apart from the pack. The company has "positioned our test in a way that it makes treatment decisions, rather than simply offering a service to patients," Stocum said. And investor optimism could go a long way in helping the company make its mark, he added.

"We've moved quite quickly because of the competitive nature of our field," Stocum said. "We're pleased that investors have shown confidence in our initial clinical data and we look forward to sharing new clinical data as it emerges."

- read the statement

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