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QuantaLife Closes $17.2M Series B Round to Back Upcoming Launch of Droplet Digital PCR Platform


By Ben Butkus

This article has been updated from a version posted Dec. 10 to include additional information and comments from a company official.

QuantaLife said late last week that it has closed a Series B financing round worth $17.2 million.

The company said that it plans to use the majority of the proceeds to ramp up its commercial operations in anticipation of the launch of its Droplet Digital PCR platform in the first half of 2011.

QuantaLife said that it will also use the financing to "accelerate development" of targeted diagnostic tests.

Investors in the financing include Paladin Capital Group and other existing investors, as well as new investors Mérieux Développement and Vital Financial.

Notably, Mérieux Développement is the healthcare investment company of Institut Mérieux, a French industrial holding company that employs more than 10,000 people worldwide and counts among its subsidiaries a broad range of biotechnology companies and laboratories.

One of those companies, BioMérieux, is 59 percent owned by Institut Mérieux and is a major player in the field of in vitro diagnostics, industrial microbiology testing, and food safety.

Also this week, Institut Mérieux announced that it is creating a new non-profit company called IMAccess to increase access to diagnostics in developing nations; and disclosed Mérieux Développement's investment in QuantaLife as part of a new innovation policy that saw it take minority holdings in two additional biomedical technology firms.

Mike Lucero, QuantaLife's vice president of marketing, this week told PCR Insider that executives from BioMérieux facilitated discussions between QuantaLife and Mérieux Développement. However, Lucero said that there were no immediate plans for collaboration between QuantaLife and BioMérieux.

In a statement, Francois Valencony, managing director of Mérieux Développement, said that QuantaLife's technology "is very compelling and represents a unique opportunity to establish a new standard for the future of genomics research and nucleic acid testing, with a simple, reliable, and cost-effective solution. We look forward to working with QuantaLife's management team and existing shareholders to help establish the company as a global leader in the emerging digital PCR market."

In June, QuantaLife said it had raised $7.5 million of a what was intended to be a $15 million financing round, according to documents filed at the time with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. However, the company was able to raise $2.2 million more than its originally stated goal.

According to another SEC filing from 2009, the company raised $7.9 million that year as part of a planned $13 million financing round.

The Droplet Digital PCR system partition samples into nanoliter-scale droplets, each of which contains a separate PCR reaction. The system then measures the fluorescence intensity of each droplet to determine the number of PCR negative and positive droplets, which enables it to report an absolute concentration rather than a cycle threshold as in real-time PCR.

QuantaLife demonstrated the platform at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting last month in Washington, DC. At the time, Lucero told PCR Insider that the company had placed the system with several early-access users at undisclosed academic institutions and that it was available to other interested parties at an initial cost of $50,000 (PCR Insider, 11/4/2010).

This week, Lucero said that the company's appearance at ASHG was fruitful, and led to "way more leads than I expected." Lucero added that QuantaLife anticipates strong enough commercial demand for the platform that it will likely raise the price to around $70,000, although it will honor any lower price quotes it provided customers at ASHG.

"You don't usually raise the price unless you're sure the product's going to sell," Lucero said.

QuantaLife is also developing microdroplet PCR-based point-of-care tests to detect methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus under a five-year, $6 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (PCR Insider, 9/16/2010).

Lucero said that the most recent financing round will specifically "support the commercial development of digital PCR in the research market, but it is in line with our work on [S. aureus]."

Have topics you'd like to see covered in PCR Insider? Contact the editor at bbutkus [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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