IDbyDNA Inc., a San Francisco-based metagenomics technology company, scooped up $20 million in series B financing in a round led by Artis Ventures. Genesys Capital and others participated in the round. The company plans to use the money to accelerate uptake of its Explify software platform and to continue enhancing and expanding the platform.
IDbyDNA previously raised $9 million in a series A round in 2016, also led by Artis Ventures, bringing total financing to $29 million.
“This funding will be used to fuel growth of our Explify software platform into the worldwide infectious disease and microbiome testing markets,” said Guochun Liao, IDbyDNA’s co-founder, president and CEO. “Our existing partnerships, combined with newly signed contracts and collaborations with leading U.S. and global commercial labs, hospitals and academic institutions, will advance customer adoption of Explify as the leading metagenomics technology platform.”
Being able to quickly identify the source of an infection can mean the difference between life and death, but diagnosis is often a matter of elimination. Patients are tested for suspected pathogens, one by one – a time-consuming process when time to treatment is key to controlling the infection.
More than 50,000 microbes
The next-generation sequencing (NGS) and analysis platform can identify more than 50,000 microorganisms and over 3,000 known common and rare pathogens and includes features such as quantification and detection of antimicrobial resistance.
Among IDbyDNA’s industry partners is Locus Biosciences Inc. The companies are developing a diagnostic test to identify the presence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in patient samples. The test will be based on the Explify platform, which Locus plans to use for patient selection and evaluation in clinical trials of LBx-PA01, a CRISPR-based precision medicine antimicrobial product targeting P. aeruginosa.
IDbyDNA is “continuously working to grow the Explify database and refine the software’s ability to detect differential strains of microbes and AMR,” Liao told BioWorld, adding the company hopes to launch a new application to laboratory clients later this year.
The new funding will support those product development efforts, as well as organizational growth. Liao said it is currently building out its R&D and engineering teams in Salt Lake City, as well as marketing and sales teams across the U.S. He said the company will likely add about 30 employees, bringing the headcount to about 100, as it focuses on more widely marketing its Explify platform and Explify respiratory test.
The respiratory test, an NGS test for respiratory infections, is currently marketed via a partnership with Arup Laboratories Inc. and through IDbyDNA’s CLIA-approved laboratory in Salt Lake City. Powered by the company’s Explify software, it detects more than 900 common and rare bacterial, fungal and viral respiratory pathogens with a single test.
New CLIA lab
Some of the recent capital infusion will go toward scaling up operations at the recently opened CLIA lab, which Liao said will aid in research and development efforts, as well as responding to client needs. “Working out of this lab allows us to use our metagenomic data science insights to develop a more powerful platform,” he said.
Explify is currently available in the U.S., Europe, China and South America. Liao said a portion of the series B proceeds will also be used to continuing expanding international activities.
In September 2018, the company announced a licensing agreement with Fleury Group, one of the largest medical and health care organizations in Brazil, for the use of Explify in high-quality clinical metagenomic testing. Fleury labs provide services across South America, with more than 9,100 employees and 2,100 physicians.
“We’ve worked with leading medical centers in the U.S. and worldwide,” said Liao. “Access to their patient populations is invaluable; pathogens like viruses are constantly mutating, so we can continuously update Explify’s database and improve its ability to identify and differentiate between pathogens.”
In 2018, IDbyDNA and San Diego-based Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine launched a clinical trial to improve diagnosis of pediatric central nervous system infections. The prospective, multisite PIPSEC (Pediatric Infectious disease Precision medicine using Sequencing Evaluation of CSF) study is assessing the diagnostic capabilities of Explify versus standard of care testing to identify pathogens from cerebral spinal fluid in pediatric patients. Liao said the company plans to share preliminary results of the trial later this year. It is scheduled for completion in January 2022.
Disrupting infection control
“We believe IDbyDNA’s technology has hit a tipping point and is now set to revolutionize the way we respond to, and tackle, infectious disease outbreaks, and address the growing concerns of antimicrobial resistance,” said Stuart Peterson, partner at Artis Ventures. “Having led their series A round, we have had a front row seat to the incredible insights that genomics and AI can deliver, and IDbyDNA’s approach to metagenomic testing presents a unique opportunity to improve pathogen identification and infectious disease diagnosis.”
With health care-associate infections affecting roughly 1 in 31 patients, IDbyDNA is not the only company offering metagenomic NGS testing as a reference test for patients with unknown illnesses. Startup Karius Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., raised $50 million in a series A financing in 2017 to advance its rapid infectious disease tests.
More recently, New York-based startup Biotia Inc. netted $2.4 million in seed funding to support the commercial launch of its patient diagnostic test. The technology leverages next-generation DNA sequencing and Biotia’s AI-based software, Chelsea, to identify, in a single test, known and emerging bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses from a clinically curated and annotated database of more than 16,000 microbial species. Like Explify, it also provides information on drug resistance.