New investors include GE Healthcare, BioMedVentures and Henri Termeer, who is the former chairman and CEO of Genzyme Corp.All previous venture investors in NanoString also participated in the financinground , including Clarus Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and OVP VenturePartners.
The money will be used to continue growingNanoString's life science tools business, as well as specifically to advancethe development of the company's first molecular diagnostic product, a breastcancer assay based on the PAM50 gene expression signature. NanoString plans topresent results from the first clinical study evaluating that breast cancerassay in early December at the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
"This financing has brought both growth capitaland a constellation of healthcare leaders into NanoString's orbit," notes BradGray, president and CEO of NanoString Technologies. "We look forward toapplying these new funds and relationships to growing the installed base forour nCounter research platform, and in parallel, advancing our moleculardiagnostics program through clinical development and regulatory approval."
The GE investment is notable for being the first suchinvestment by GE's Healthymagination Fund that is aligned with GE Healthcare'srecently announced five-year, $1 billion commitment to promote new research anddevelopment in the oncology realm.
"NanoString is a good strategic fit with GEHealthcare, given our common focus on oncology," says Pascale Witz, presidentand CEO of GE Healthcare's Medical Diagnostics business. "GE Healthcare's growingpersonalized medicine portfolio encompasses a wide range of life science toolsand diagnostic solutions. We believe NanoString's nCounter Analysis Systemgives researchers the potential to take basic biomarker discoveries into theclinic."
NanoString's nCounter Analysis System—currently availablefor research uses only—is an automated, multi-application digital detection andcounting system with what the company calls "a very simple workflow" and whichhas been used in basic and translational research since its introduction in2008. NanoString recently launched its second generation nCounter system, whichincludes the hardware upon which the company will pursue regulatory clearancefor its breast cancer subtyping assay and other molecular diagnostic assays.
The nCounter tool has been gaining traction overthe past two or three years among academic institutions—perhaps mostnotable among them the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard—because of researchersare able to use it to identify patterns in diseases like cancer that are socomplex they might affect several dozen genes rather than one or a few.
"The development and use of targeted cancertherapies requires understanding each patient's tumor at a molecular level,"notes Termeer, who left Genzyme in July 2011 after 27 years there, havingintroduced a number of therapeutics and diagnostics for genetic disease andcancer. "NanoString's technology provides an invaluable tool in cancer researchand drug development, and has the potential to enable a globally scalableapproach to personalized medicine."
This investment follows another big one by Termeerand his wife, who recently donated $10 million to start a new program atMassachusetts General Hospital that also involves research into personalizedcancer approaches.