Liquid biopsy maker Nucleix rakes in $55M to develop blood tests to detect lung cancer early

It’s full steam ahead for Nucleix’s blood test for lung cancer detection, thanks to an influx of cash in the Israeli company’s latest round of funding.

The liquid biopsy maker closed its oversubscribed $55 million financing on April 7. RA Capital Management led the round, with additional participation from new and existing investors including BlackRock-managed funds and accounts, Lilly Asia Ventures, OrbiMed and more.

The financial boost will go toward fine-tuning Nucleix’s EpiCheck technology. EpiCheck uses next-generation sequencing to identify changes in DNA methylation that indicate the onset of cancer, then applies PCR techniques to translate those findings into scalable lab tests.

The result is a simple blood or urine test that can detect cancer based on miniscule changes in a person’s DNA, allowing for much earlier diagnoses and less invasive methods than other tissue-based tests.

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The company will focus specifically on producing an improved version of its Lung EpiCheck assay, which is aimed at detecting lung cancer in past and current smokers. The first iteration of the blood test was able to find 85% of cases of early-stage lung cancer in high-risk smokers, according to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal in October 2020.

Once Lung EpiCheck has been updated and improved, Nucleix will validate its abilities in another study in hopes of making the test commercially available sometime next year.

“Early detection of cancer from a blood sample is like listening for a whisper in a crowded room—you need to separate a faint signal from considerable background noise. EpiCheck minimizes sample loss and background noise while detecting minute cancer epigenetic signals with greater sensitivity than other technologies,” CEO Chris Hibberd said in a statement. “This new funding enables us to further demonstrate the power of the technology through a focused program in lung cancer, advancing tests designed to be highly sensitive, easily deployed and cost effective.”

The lung-cancer-focused test is the second in Nucleix’s portfolio, following Bladder EpiCheck. That test analyzes DNA methylation in a urine sample to detect recurrences of bladder cancer. It’s currently commercially available in Europe, and the company said in May 2020 that it hopes to receive 510(k) clearance from the FDA to bring the test to the U.S. by mid-2021.

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Nucleix isn’t alone in developing liquid biopsy tests for early cancer detection. In just the last few months, LabCorp began rolling out a similar lung-cancer-focused test from Resolution Bioscience, Guardant Health unveiled a blood test that detects post-op recurrences of colorectal cancer and the FDA awarded its first approval to a liquid biopsy that can genetically profile solid tumors throughout the body.