Illumina alums launch Cradle Genomics with $17.1M for first-trimester fetal DNA testing

Cradle's founding CEO, commercial head and operations officer all previously held management roles at Illumina. (Pixelistanbul/Getty)

Prenatal blood test developer Cradle Genomics has secured $17.1 million to help build out its laboratory operations, as well as kick off clinical testing of its methods for fetal genetic testing and pregnancy health screening within the first trimester.

The San Diego-based company’s series A round was led by Illumina Ventures and the VC fund Section 32, headed up by former Calico and Google Ventures founder Bill Maris. Other backers included Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Sea Lane Ventures, Listwin Ventures and Axon Ventures.

Using blood taken from the mother, Cradle aims to purify and amplify the signals from trace amounts of circulating, cell-free DNA from the fetus, with the goal of offering screening as early as the fifth week of pregnancy. 

"Our mission at Cradle Genomics is to deliver genetic knowledge for life, with a vision of better outcomes for every pregnancy," Cradle CEO and co-founder Tristan Orpin said in a statement

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Orpin previously held several management roles at the nearby Illumina, including as chief commercial officer and executive VP of clinical genomics. He has also served as an executive at Sequenom and Bio-Rad Laboratories.

Cradle’s founding team also includes Illumina alums Richard Shippy as commercial VP and Jeff Eidel as operations officer. At the genetic testing giant, Shippy was formerly senior director of strategic product marketing for reproductive and genetic health, while Eidel served as head of corporate & business development.

The company’s VP of research and the inventor of its technology, Randy Armant, is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wayne State University in Detroit, where Cradle has additional R&D operations. Meanwhile, its VP of development, Sascha Drewlo, is an associate professor at Michigan State University.