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NanoString nabs $20 million in a Series D round involving GE and former Genzyme CEO
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


SEATTLE—While the size or reputation of investors don't guarantee success of a business, NanoString Technologies Inc., a privately held provider of life science tools for translational research and a developer of molecular diagnostics, did get some notable names participating in a Series D round of equity financing, which closed this week having netted the company $20 million.  
New investors include GE Healthcare, BioMed Ventures and Henri Termeer, who is the former chairman and CEO of Genzyme Corp. All previous venture investors in NanoString also participated in the financing round , including Clarus Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and OVP Venture Partners.  
The money will be used to continue growing NanoString's life science tools business, as well as specifically to advance the development of the company's first molecular diagnostic product, a breast cancer assay based on the PAM50 gene expression signature. NanoString plans to present results from the first clinical study evaluating that breast cancer assay in early December at the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.  
"This financing has brought both growth capital and a constellation of healthcare leaders into NanoString's orbit," notes Brad Gray, president and CEO of NanoString Technologies. "We look forward to applying these new funds and relationships to growing the installed base for our nCounter research platform, and in parallel, advancing our molecular diagnostics program through clinical development and regulatory approval."  
The GE investment is notable for being the first such investment by GE's Healthymagination Fund that is aligned with GE Healthcare's recently announced five-year, $1 billion commitment to promote new research and development in the oncology realm.  
"NanoString is a good strategic fit with GE Healthcare, given our common focus on oncology," says Pascale Witz, president and CEO of GE Healthcare's Medical Diagnostics business. "GE Healthcare's growing personalized medicine portfolio encompasses a wide range of life science tools and diagnostic solutions. We believe NanoString's nCounter Analysis System gives researchers the potential to take basic biomarker discoveries into the clinic."  
NanoString's nCounter Analysis System—currently available for research uses only—is an automated, multi-application digital detection and counting system with what the company calls "a very simple workflow" and which has been used in basic and translational research since its introduction in 2008. NanoString recently launched its second generation nCounter system, which includes the hardware upon which the company will pursue regulatory clearance for its breast cancer subtyping assay and other molecular diagnostic assays.  
The nCounter tool has been gaining traction over the past two or three years among academic institutions—perhaps most notable among them the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard—because of researchers are able to use it to identify patterns in diseases like cancer that are so complex they might affect several dozen genes rather than one or a few.  
"The development and use of targeted cancer therapies requires understanding each patient's tumor at a molecular level," notes Termeer, who left Genzyme in July 2011 after 27 years there, having introduced a number of therapeutics and diagnostics for genetic disease and cancer. "NanoString's technology provides an invaluable tool in cancer research and drug development, and has the potential to enable a globally scalable approach to personalized medicine."
This investment follows another big one by Termeer and his wife, who recently donated $10 million to start a new program at Massachusetts General Hospital that also involves research into personalized cancer approaches. 

Code: E11091102



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