RainDance Technologies

RainDance Technologies entered the liquid biopsy arena while other companies were still shaking their heads, CEO Roopom Banerjee told FierceDiagnostics. "They would say liquid biopsy is really interesting but wouldn't get involved," he said.

RainDance CEO Roopom Banerjee

But the headwinds shifted in 2014, when there was a "liquid biopsy coming-out party" at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Banerjee said. The Billerica, MA-based company found itself at the center of the action, with innovative technology that allows scientists to screen biological fluid with higher precision and sensitivity.

RainDance's digital droplet technology puts single nucleic acids inside of droplets, creating a PCR reaction that allows researchers to see DNA sequences in greater detail and scan for potential abnormalities. While the technology is currently being used for next-generation sequencing and digital PCR, the company is also looking into applications that would use single cells, single proteins and cell sorting to screen for different conditions.

In particular, RainDance sees big potential for its RainDrop Digital PCR system, which integrates the company's digital droplet technology to detect mutations at a lower price. As scientists turn their attention to research areas such as cancer or immune profiling, liquid biopsy systems such as RainDrop could hold even bigger potential.

"Part of the promise of liquid biopsy is being able to characterize that disease down to the key mutations and then identify them in a cost-effective way," Banerjee said. "It's great for science and great for a business model."

The company is forging ahead with its technology, filing plans in March for a $60 million public offering. RainDance has almost $35 million in its stockpile, and an IPO could create a broader platform for the company's products, build out its commercial presence and recruit bigger and better talent, Banerjee said. "We're doing well, we're growing fast and we want to grow faster. Capitalization from an IPO gives us better validation to be able to do that."

Still, the company will have to work hard to defend its share of the market as other diagnostics outfits cash in on the trend. Liquid biopsy is quickly becoming "one of the holy grails" in diagnostics, Banerjee said, and companies are eager to jump on the bandwagon.

"We're finally at the stage where the level of technical knowledge matches the level of genomic knowledge, and we can bring those together to understand disease. The opportunity is very big," Banerjee said. "Multiple companies will benefit from the change. We're already experiencing the tailwinds of the liquid biopsy movement."

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