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SomaLogic Gets $19.5 Million in Launching Fuel for Aptamer Protein Array Technology

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With $19.5 million in new financing fuel, Boulder, Colo.-based SomaLogic is readying to launch its price-busting aptamer protein microarrays by the fourth quarter this year, according to David Brunel, the company’s CEO.

The financing, a series C round closed Feb. 20, will be used mostly for R&D on the aptamer arrays, the company said.

The company believes that its arrays will offer a cost per data point that “is going to be the best in the industry,” Brunel said,” because we are going to be able to scale our chips” depending on whether researchers need to measure 20, 40, or 500 analytes.

For the lower-density chips, the cost will be somewhere around $1.50 to $3 per analyte, while in the higher-density chips, the cost per analyte will be much cheaper, he said.

SomaLogic’s arrays are based on the photoaptamer, a single strand of DNA sequence specially modified so it can capture proteins. Larry Gold, the company’s founder and CSO, invented photoaptamers while chairman of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado.

Instead of using a sandwich assay for detection, the arrays use a single detection agent, a universal protein stain, to detect the aptamer-protein binding reactions on the chips.

“We’re using one capture agent, and yet we have a performance consistent with a single analyte assay,” said Brunel. “That has got to be one key advantage. Plus, because aptamers are manufactured in vitro, and [since they] are essentially a single-stranded DNA, they are quite stable, easy to spot, and maintain as active on chip surfaces.”

Somalogic still has not yet gone into alpha testing stages on the arrays, Brunel said.

Brunel’s boasts, however, are backed up by a few key partnerships and abundant cash: The company, which opened its doors at the beginning of 2000, has so far feathered its nest with $43.5 million in financing.

This latest round was led by insider Skye Associates, whose principal, Harold Nussenfeld sits on Somalogic’s board, and was joined by Japanese trading giant Mitsui and Co., which is also the company’s Asian distribution partner.

The Mitsui partnership and funding relationship took some time to nurture, said Brunel — as any collaboration between a Japanese and US or European company does. “We’ve spent an extensive amount of time in Japan,” and have had “two points of contact” at any one time, he explained.

The company has also inked partnerships with Celera to build the protein capture arrays, and with animal health company Merial to develop an in vitro diagnostic assay for Bovine Spongiform Encephaly, or mad cow disease, using aptamers to BSE protein prions.

On Feb. 13, Somalogic also announced that it would be partnering with the National Cancer Institute to manufacture in vitro aptamers for proteins supplied by NCI researchers, and that it would retain the right to use the aptamers for its arrays.

Within 30 days, the company plans to add to this portfolio of partnerships an announced collaboration “with an instrumentation player looking to do arrays,” Brunel said.

— MMJ