Abionic has raised CHF 20 million ($21 million) to trial a test designed to give physicians rapid insights into patients that are at risk of sepsis. The test builds on Abionic’s work to develop an immunoassay platform that delivers results faster than the traditional laboratory-based process.
Nicolas Durand founded Abionic in 2010 to develop an idea he had while working on his Ph.D. in nanofluidics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. Durand thought bringing surfaces very close together might truncate the time it takes to run immunoassays. Eight years later, the result is a platform that measures molecular interactions in nanofluidic biosensors.
“We have the capacity to run most of the immunoassays that are today realized in laboratories in between two and three hours … on our platform in less than five minutes from a drop of a blood, instead of several milliliters of blood,” Durand said.
Abionic has run several clinical studies of the platform in its first chosen field—allergy tests—that have involved several hundred patients and a dozen leaders in the field, according to Durand. A paper based on one of these studies is in review at an allergy journal. But as it stands, Abionic has yet to publish peer-reviewed evidence of the capabilities of its platform.
The allergy work has yielded commercial tests, though. Abionic has started to commercialize tests for birch, cat, dog, grass and other allergies in Switzerland and will use some of the series C funds to support these efforts. But with Abionic keen to find distribution and commercialization partners, the main focus of the round lies elsewhere.
Specifically, Abionic needs the money to put its pancreatic stone protein test of sepsis risk through a clinical trial. Work at 14 sites is due to get underway soon. The goal is to show that the test can quickly provide information that guides the treatment decisions of doctors when assessing potential sepsis patients in emergency rooms.
The persistently high mortality rate associated with sepsis is partly a result of the information gap doctors face when triaging patients. With its five-minute turnaround, Abionic thinks its platform can address the information gap and has persuaded some wealthy individuals to bankroll its strategy.
Pierangelo Bottinelli, chairman of Symphony International Holdings, led the round with the support of a former CEO of Nestlé, a co-founder of Yandex—the “Russian Google”—and a clutch of other people who made money in healthcare and other industries. The heavy involvement of high-net-worth individuals is a deliberate strategy by Abionic, which sees their priorities as a better fit for its plans.
“They wanted to invest as entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs. They don't have the same interests as standard venture capitalist firms,” Durand said. “We are in the process of exploring a potential IPO and the development of the company in the long term, and those kinds of [investor] profiles make much more sense than standard VC funds.”