By Turna Ray
Health technology behemoth GE Healthcare officially entered the personalized medicine space last week by investing $5 million in genomic diagnostics firm CardioDx as part of a co-development agreement focused on cardiovascular diagnostics.
The infusion of funding into CardioDx represents the first investment of GE's $250 million Healthymagination Fund, which was launched in October and plans to invest in "highly promising" young companies developing life sciences tools, diagnostics, or healthcare information technologies.
The partnership between GE Healthcare and CardioDx aligns the two entities' diagnostic offerings in the cardiovascular space.
Founded in 2004 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., CardioDx specializes in developing genomic tests for coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure. The company currently sells Corus CAD, a non-invasive gene expression test to predict the likelihood of a patient having obstructive coronary heart disease.
In addition to genomic test development, CardioDx is currently running a prospective clinical trial, called Diagnostic Investigation of Sudden Cardiac Event Risk, or DISCERN, in which researchers are studying genomic factors involved in ventricular arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.
GE Healthcare, meantime, offers a range of cardiovascular imaging technologies, which doctors can use in combination with CardioDx's Corus CAD test to garner additional insight into disease. Additionally, GE Healthcare also has a clinical systems business unit that develops technologies such as ultrasounds and ECGs; a healthcare IT unit that provides clinical and financial technology solutions; as well as life sciences and surgery units.
GE Healthcare, a $16 billion unit of General Electric, employs 46,000 people and operates in 100 countries. According to the company, its alliance with CardioDx reflects an ongoing interest in combining in vivo and in vitro diagnostic technologies to improve patient care.
For CardioDx, the main advantage in coming under GE Healthcare's aegis is the potential for its tests to have broad adoption channels. Although the current partnership focuses solely on the co-development of diagnostics, chances are high that in the future it could extend to a distribution agreement.
"The alliance, initially, is intended to focus mainly on co-development efforts," a GE Healthcare spokesperson told Pharmacogenomics Reporter. "As these co-development efforts come to fruition and as we fully explore the full strategic value of the alliance, we may explore a distribution-type relationship."
Currently CardioDx's tests are analyzed through its CLIA-certified laboratory in Palo Alto. A spokesperson for CardioDx told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week that the company is currently expanding its US sales presence for Corus CAD and will continue to do so as the company grows.
The alliance with GE Healthcare "provides growth capital to enable expansion of such advanced, integrated high-value diagnostics in the market more quickly for patients and healthcare providers," the spokesperson said. "The alliance also provides CardioDx with direct access to expertise in scientific, clinical, and commercialization arenas within GE Healthcare, all focused on transforming medical technologies and services to shape a new age of patient care."
However, the collaboration with GE Healthcare still allows CardioDx to ink other strategic partnerships to drive adoption of its genomic tests. "CardioDx continues to maintain the freedom to form collaborations with multiple parties," the spokesperson said. "The rights provided to the GE Healthymagination Fund are similar to the rights provided to our other investors."
In addition to GE Healthcare, investors in privately held CardioDx include Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers; TPG Biotech; Mohr Davidow Ventures; Intel Capital; and Pappas Ventures. According to report on Thomson Reuters, the $5 million from GE Healthcare was part of a lager funding round in which CardioDx raised as much as $45.5 million.
As a privately held firm that has technologies that complement GE Healthcare's areas of expertise, CardioDX serves as a good example of the types of companies GE Healthcare is looking to partner with through the Healthymagination Fund, according to Mike Jones, GE Healthcare's VP of business development.
"We are not looking to just make investments in companies like a traditional venture capital investor might. We are looking for financial returns," Jones said in a video announcing the partnership on the company's website.