With $20 million raised in Series B financing, the developer of a metagenomics platform for microorganism detection plans to further develop its technology—which can now detect novel coronavirus infection (2019-nCoV)—and expand its operations, including a CLIA-approved commercial laboratory at the company’s Salt Lake City facility.
IDbyDNA said proceeds from the financing are set to be used toward advancing its next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based platform, designed to simultaneously detect and analyze tens of thousands of microorganisms and pathogens in any sample.
IDbyDNA markets the Explify® platform, designed to identify more than 50,000 microorganisms, and more than 3,000 known common and rare pathogens. The platform uses a proprietary database of curated DNA and RNA reference sequences to identify 35,000+ viruses, 13,000+ bacteria, 4,000+ fungi, and 150+ parasites.
According to the company, Explify offers users secure data privacy, highly curated and well-annotated databases, rapid metagenomic analysis, QA/QC applications, custom user interfaces, and automated report generation tools—with the platform’s newer features including quantification and the ability to detect antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
A version of the platform, Explify Respiratory, has recently been upgraded to enable it to detect 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus strain discovered in Wuhan, China. Its global spread has generated 4,587 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection as of January 28, including 106 deaths, according to the European Union’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
“We can detect this novel coronavirus, but also we can differentiate it from other coronaviruses,” Guochun Liao, PhD, MBA, co-founder and CEO of IDbyDNA, told GEN.
Explify users include hospital and reference labs, clinical research facilities, and biopharmas. The company expects to further ramp up its development and marketing of the platform through an expansion that is expected to bring IDbyDNA to more than 100 people from its current workforce of 70+ staffers—of which roughly 40 are based at company headquarters in San Francisco, and the rest in Salt Lake City, Liao said.
“An inflection point”
“We plan to grow our R&D team for a lot of new opportunities. We also want to grow our engineering team, and also grow our sales and marketing team as well,” Liao said. “We are at an inflection point to really grow.”
That growth, according to IDbyDNA, will come in part by serving what Liao said was the significant number of hospitals that now need to send their samples for analysis to outside labs because they now lack in-house NGS analysis capabilities.
Liao said the financing will help the company evolve from developing its Explify platform, having validated its technology, to offering disease diagnostics that are intended to help hospitals, reference labs, and other customers significantly improve the accuracy and speed of microorganism detection.
“This is going to help us understand this field better, but also enable us to have a much better platform with our partners,” Liao said. “One of the reasons why we are working in this field is because infectious disease pretty much affects everyone. This is a very large market, and we see there’s an unmet medical need.”
The global infectious disease diagnostics market is projected to grow from $14.7 billion in 2017 to $21.3 billion in 2024, according to a report released January 22 by Zion Market Research.
Existing investor ARTIS Ventures led the Series B round, with participation by new investor Genesys Capital and other undisclosed investors.
The Series B brings IDbyDNA’s total capital raised to approximately $30 million since the company was founded in 2015 as Reference Genomics. The company’s last financing was a $9 million Series A round completed in 2016 and led by ARTIS Ventures.
“We have had a front-row seat to the incredible insights that genomics and AI can deliver, and IDbyDNA’s approach to metagenomic testing presents a unique opportunity to improve pathogen identification and infectious disease diagnosis,” Stuart Peterson, partner at ARTIS Ventures, said in a statement. “We believe IDbyDNA’s technology has hit a tipping point and is now set to revolutionize the way we respond to, and tackle, infectious disease outbreaks, and address the growing concerns of antimicrobial resistance.”