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Not for the 'Faint of Heart'

Diagnostics are a tough business, writes life sciences venture capitalist Bruce Booth.

And he should know — he's currently in the process of unwinding cancer diagnostics company On-Q-Ity, an investment by his firm, Atlas Ventures, that didn't quite work out.

The reading public is the beneficiary of Booth's loss, though, as he performs a post-mortem of sorts, looking at what went wrong.

Among the lessons learned:

"Crashing two Fords together doesn't make a Porsche," Booth writes of his team's effort to combine two biotech firms — one focused on circulating tumor cell detection and the other on DNA repair biomarkers — into a single venture.

"Tranche the capital." Apparently when you get all $26 million of your Series A funds at once, it can be hard not to spend it.

"Team, team, team." In other words, it helps to have a stable management team in place.

And, as noted above, "diagnostics aren't for the faint of heart."

"Despite the frothy commentary about personalized medicine and the dawn of diagnostics, it's a very tough business that faces many of the risks and costs of drug R&D but without the upside," Booth says.