Like many biotech startups, Cynvenio was borne of technology developed in academia. Launched in 2007, the company was initially based on rare cell isolation technology developed by Hyongsok (Tom) Soh, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Frederick Gluck, former managing partner at McKinsey & Company, provided initial seed capital. Though it has had some VC investments, Cynvenio remains a primarily angel-funded company. The firm has also been supported by funds from the NCI through a handful of SBIR grants.
De Fusco says it was a key contract with UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies that got the company off the ground. Cynvenio later entered a development contract with an undisclosed large pharmaceutical firm.
Compared with its competitors, “what we’ve developed up front is a machine that is better, more affordable, and automated,” claims de Fusco. “The power of the solution is in allowing people to access the DNA of cells which are taken off the platform.”
Dr. Dempsey maintains that Cynvenio’s platform is the only one that enables the direct molecular analysis of CTCs drawn from whole blood. Even so, it’s unlikely that Cynvenio will be in the business of selling lots of machines.
What’s more probable, de Fusco says, is that the company will establish core-like facilities for customers to access its technology. “If you could get hundreds of samples processed in two days by sending a FedEx envelope, that’d be preferable to having to buy machines for hundreds of thousands of dollars, set up the personnel, and train your lab,” he says.
Among the company’s initial foci are breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma. While most of its partners and customers to date have been oncology research centers, within the next 12 months Cynvenio expects to launch services for doctors and patients, respectively.
“We’re really bifurcating as a company,” de Fusco says. In addition to Cynvenio’s research customers, “we’re supporting, increasingly, individual doctors and their patients,” he adds.