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Startup Cradle Genomics Raises $17.1M in Series A Round to Develop NIPT

NEW YORK – Noninvasive prenatal testing startup Cradle Genomics said today that it has raised $17.1 million in a Series A funding round.

The funding was led by Illumina Ventures and Section 32 with participation from Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Sea Lane Ventures, Listwin Ventures, and Axon Ventures.

The company, which is headquartered in San Diego and has R&D operations in Detroit, plans to use the proceeds to support clinical development, corporate infrastructure, CLIA lab operations, and the launch of products for NIPT.

Cradle Genomics has developed a proprietary assay to increase the purity of fetal DNA, which it says enables NIPT as early as five weeks into pregnancy.

The company was founded by Randy Armant, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wayne State University and the firm's VP of research; Richard Shippy, former senior director of strategic product marketing in reproductive and genetic health at Illumina and the firm's VP of commercial operations; and Sascha Drewlo, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Michigan State University and the firm's VP of development. Cradle Genomics CEO Tristan Orpin is the former chief commercial officer and executive VP of clinical genomics of Illumina.

"We're dedicated to the transformation of NIPT by offering the most comprehensive fetal genetic analysis and pregnancy health screening solutions at the earliest stages of pregnancy," Orpin said in a statement.

The company declined to provide additional information about its technology and commercialization plans at this time, but according to its website, Randy Armant is an inventor on patents for technology used by the firm.

Armant is listed as an inventor on several US patents and patent applications, some of which also name Drewlo as an inventor, that relate to the genomic analysis of fetal trophoblast cells isolated from the cervix. The most recent patent application, published in May, covers the isolation and analysis of fetal DNA from extravillous trophoblast cells retrieved from the endocervical canal.

In 2016, a team led by Armant and Drewlo published a paper in Science Translational Medicine on fetal genome profiling at five weeks of gestation using trophoblast cells isolated from Pap smears. At the time, PerkinElmer had taken an exclusive license to the method and Armant and Drewlo had founded a startup company called Advanced Reproductive Testing.

Drewlo told GenomeWeb at that time that the method, called TRIC (trophoblast retrieval isolation from the cervix), can be performed early in pregnancy and recovers more fetal cells than other approaches.