BioNano bags $53M to dig deeper into genomics with Novartis on board

San Diego's BioNano Genomics has raised a $53 million C round to bankroll its efforts to decode the so-called inaccessible genome, adding Novartis ($NVS) to its investor syndicate as it works to amplify its profile.

BioNano's platform, Irys, is designed to detect structural variations in a patient's genetic structure--including DNA insertions, deletions and repeats--which often go uncharted by existing mapping tools, the company said. Such variations are key to understanding the genomic differences between people and thus charting the root cause of disease, according to BioNano, positioning Irys as a game-changing technology in the field of personalized medicine.

With its latest funding round, co-led by Novartis Venture Fund and Legend Capital, BioNano plans to hit the gas on its Irys commercialization efforts, making the case to researchers in biopharma and other fields. Novartis Venture Fund Managing Director Campbell Murray and Legend Executive Director Darren Cai have joined the company's board, joining previous backers Domain Associates, Battelle Ventures and Gund Investment Corporation in financing.

Irys is a benchtop instrument that takes the long view on DNA, BioNano says, ditching the fragmentation or amplification processes common in genomics and instead uncoiling larger genetic structures to spotlight structural variations. That effectively makes it "the missing link between sequencing data and actionable clinical data," BioNano Chairwoman Tracy Warren said in a statement, and the company is pitching its platform as an integral tool for drug discovery, disease research and diagnostic development.

BioNano CEO Erik Holmlin

"Our investors have seen the research community's response to BioNano's Irys system as a must-have instrument to drive the next wave of discoveries in genomics," CEO Erik Holmlin said in a statement. "They foresee how our technology will enable the practical use of genomic information in the clinic and in other important industrial settings."

The company's latest raise follows a $10 million round closed last October, cash that helped the company place Irys systems at the Salk Institute, the National Cancer Institute, France's Genoscope and elsewhere.

- read the statement (PDF)