Biocartis raises €80M to help drive liquid biopsy push

The Belgian company has just launched a Merck-partnered colorectal cancer test.(Biocartis)

Belgian molecular diagnostics outfit Biocartis says an €80 million private placement will allow it to expand its product range and sales and manufacturing capacity.

The Brussels-listed company had originally hoped to raise around €60 million, but topped that target by placing 6.4 million new shares at an issue price of €12.50 apiece that, according to chief financial officer Ewoud Welten, “is an important milestone for Biocartis in securing funds for the further execution of its plans.”

The cash injection will go towards expanding the range of tests offered with Biocartis’ Idylla automated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostics system—first launched in 2014 and just starting to roll out in the U.S.—that is used to test clinical samples, mainly in oncology, infectious diseases.

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It will also go towards bulking up its sales and marketing teams and adding production capacity for Idylla’s diagnostic test capsules, said Welten.

Just this week, the company launched two new liquid biopsy tests for the detection of RAS mutations in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, a project it has partnered with German drug and chemicals groups Merck KGaA. Merck’s second-biggest product Erbitux (cetuximab) is used to treat colorectal cancer, and RAS testing is a key toll in deciding which patients stand to benefit from treatment with the drug.

The company sees the development of liquid biopsy tests as a key part of its growth strategy, allowing it to broaden access to molecular diagnostics by allowing analysis to be carried out on blood samples rather than surgical biopsies.

“Liquid biopsy testing is at the advanced edge of oncology practice, where it has the ability to complement tissue testing and provide additional prognostic information that was not available to clinicians so far,” commented Biocartis’ head of R&D Erwin Sablon.

Earlier this year the Mechelen-based firm formed a partnership with U.K. medical research charity MRC Technology to develop a liquid biopsy test that will be used to monitor metastatic breast cancer patients for resistance to hormone therapy.

Biocartis followed that with a separate deal to develop an Idylla-compatible version of Genomic Health’s Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test, which predicts whether patients will benefit from chemotherapy.

Next year, the platform should be extended further with the launch of a liquid biopsy test for EGFR mutations in lung cancer patients. Biocartis already has a solid biopsy version of the test available on Idylla which picked up a CE Mark in June.