Karius reels in $50M to ramp up infectious disease liquid biopsy

Karius, which markets a blood-based test that detects more than 1,250 pathogens, raised $50 million in series A financing. The funds will support clinical trials and boost commercialization of the test, as well as scale up Karius’ laboratory capacity.

The Redwood City, California-based company offers a blood-based test for Mycobacterium chimaera in addition to its Digital Culture Test, which can detect more than 1,250 pathogens, including Legionella and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, from a single blood draw. It usually returns results within one business day, according to a statement.

The tests use next-generation sequencing to detect cell-free DNA fragments that bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens leave behind in the blood. Karius markets the test to physicians and labs for $2,000, according to CNBC. While it is more expensive than traditional tests, Karius doesn’t see its product as a first-line diagnostic. Instead, it’s most useful in cases where the patient is critically ill and other tests come back negative, CNBC reported.

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"Infectious diseases are a leading cause of mortality globally and an enormous area of unmet need. Clinical results from our early access program demonstrate that the Karius test allows clinicians to diagnose infections more rapidly and accurately,” Karius CEO Mickey Kertesz said in the statement. “We've enabled doctors to devise precise and effective treatment plans for patients and speed recovery times. We look forward to further broadening availability of our technology in the coming months.”

Traditional tests identify a narrower range of pathogens and can take much longer to process.

"[The Karius test] means one blood draw instead of a series of pokes and sticks for the patient," Peter Chin-Hong, a doctor who treats patients with infectious disease, told CNBC. "And it means one drug rather than a lot of antibiotics that aren't needed."

The liquid biopsy field has been gaining steam in recent years, but as a diagnostic for cancer. It is typically used to help doctors make treatment decisions—last year, Genomic Health launched a blood-based test designed to guide doctors treating stage 4 solid cancers, while Epic Sciences raised $40 million in May to further develop its liquid biopsy tests that predict drug response in cancer patients. Illumina spinoff Grail is looking to go further, snagging $900 million in the first close of its series B round to develop and validate its tests that aim to detect cancer early.