Rarecyte Inc., a Seattle-based company making products for tissue and cell analysis, reported picking up $22 million in a series F financing round led by Healthquest Capital. Also participating in the round were existing investors 5AM Ventures and Ron Seubert, Rarecyte’s founder and chief technology officer.

The company plans to use the funds to expand global sales of its instruments and consumables platform in research clinical markets.

Rarecyte develops hardware and software technologies to assist researchers in performing liquid biopsies. It’s platform, used by academic medical centers and biopharmaceutical companies, includes Accucyte Sample Preparation, Rareplex Staining Kits, Cytefinder Instruments and the Cytepicker Retrieval Module. The company recently debuted its Cytefinder II platform, which adds whole slide high-parameter tissue analysis to its basic liquid biopsy capabilities, enabling high-resolution multiplexing for a range of applications, including immuno-oncology.

The company also recently launched the Rareplex Developer Kits, which allow customers to add their own biomarkers to Rarecyte circulating tumor cell (CTC) assays in their labs. Compatible with customer-supplied mouse or rabbit antibodies and leveraged on automated slide staining platforms, the Developer Kits are designed so that they can be used in conjunction with Rarecyte Panel Kits. The company also recently rolled out a new prostate cancer ARv7 CTC staining kit and HER2/ER CTC panel kit, both part of the Rareplex family of products.

Focus on CDx

Joe Victor, Rarecyte’s president and CEO, spoke enthusiastically about Healthquest Capital’s investment, citing the firm’s health care expertise and ecosystem. “This funding will allow Rarecyte to accelerate our global sales and marketing efforts, fund development of applications for our new tissue multiplexing platform and release new liquid biopsies,” he said.

Cell IDX HI-2A assay imaged on Cytefinder II instrument. Credit: Rarecyte Inc.

Funding will be leveraged for sales channel growth in international markets, primarily in Europe and Asia, and for further development of the liquid biopsy and tissue multiplexing platform and associated applications, Victor told BioWorld MedTech.

“We are seeing significant interest in these products as they enable research in some of the fastest growing translational medical applications today,” he said. “Although relatively new on the market the past few years, we have penetrated many strategic research institutions worldwide, including nonprofit organizations and biopharma.”

With the push for more precision medicines, one area Rarecyte has set its sights on is companion diagnostics. In fact, the company has built out its regulatory and clinical development capabilities specifically to support CDx partnership programs with drug companies. “It has been our fastest growing business unit after investing and focusing on this market segment starting in late 2017,” Victor said.

New board members

In tandem with the financing, Rarecyte appointed David Kabakoff, partner at Healthquest Capital, and Andy Schwab, managing partner at 5AM Ventures, to its board.

“Healthquest Capital is committed to helping transformative health care companies like Rarecyte grow,” Kabakoff said. “Rarecyte’s well-differentiated, integrated platform can be applied to both liquid biopsy and tissue samples and will enable next-generation precision medicine applications in numerous life sciences market segments.”

Schwab, whose firm led a $30 million series D round in 2017, underscored the strides Rarecyte has made in the liquid and tissue biopsy space, saying it sets the stage for an upward trajectory. “Rarecyte has validated its rare single-cell platform with research and biopharma customers for numerous liquid biopsy assays, and those products plus the recently released tissue applications will be a catalyst for future growth,” he said. “The company is poised to scale, and we are very pleased to have Healthquest Capital join the investor syndicate.

Rarecyte was spun out of Applied Precision Inc. (API) by Seubert in 2011, following its acquisition by GE Healthcare. Seubert was chairman and a co-founder of API and served as Rarecyte’s CEO until late 2017. Victor’s ties also hail back to API, where he was CEO and an early investor in Rarecyte. After leaving API, he held leadership roles at DVS Sciences Inc., now a Fluidigm company, and 5AM Ventures before joining Rarecyte as CEO in conjunction with the series D funding. Seubert transitioned to chief technology officer.

Rarecyte was not the only liquid biopsy-focused company to report a fundraising in recent weeks. In late November, Singapore-based Lucence Diagnostics Pte. Ltd. reported raising $20 million in a series A investment. The genomic medicine company is developing liquid biopsy tests for cancer screening and personalizing care. The round was led by IHH Healthcare Bhd., with participation by SgInnovate Pte. Ltd. and existing investors. The new capital will help to scale business and lab operations and increase patient access to the company’s tests.

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