The life sciences technology development company RainDance Technologies has raised $16.5 million from new investors GE Ventures and Northgate Capital as it looks to make its liquid biopsy technology available commercially.
To date, RainDance has raised well over $100 million in equity and debt to back its vision and develop its technology, which is currently being used as a research tool for studying various cancers, viruses, and inherited diseases.
For RainDance chief executive Roopom Banerjee, the close of the company’s $36.5 million Series E round, is just the latest step on what has been RainDance’s decade-long path to bring its cancer and virus detection technology to the public.
“Imagine a world where someday you can detect cancer before it happens, from a blood test,” Banerjee said. “To be able to get that type of information from blood tests, which could be part of your annual physical? That’s the Holy Grail.”
That Holy Grail isn’t a reality yet, but RainDance has seen its sales double annually over the past year, and has sufficient funds to see the company continue down the path to profitability, according to Banerjee.
At the core of RainDance’s detection technology is a microfluidic chipset that the company calls a “RainDrop”. The technology was developed at Harvard University, and was spun out in 2004 when RainDance launched to commercialize it.
The Billerica, Mass.-based company uses a technology that doctors can use to screen small amounts of fluid to identify the component molecules in the liquid. Once the component molecules are separated out they are examined for mutant DNA or RNA, or for the presence of viruses like HIV, Banerjee said.
“Instead of going through invasive methods you go straight to blood and you can detect cancer using just blood,” Banerjee said.
With its latest investment GE Ventures is adding to an already significant stable of biotech and healthcare companies – a fact that should come as no surprise considering how strategically important the healthcare business is at G.E. That business unit received $4.7 billion in new orders for the quarter ending Oct. 18, 2013.
Companies like G.E. have been getting more active as investors in early stage companies, as they cut back on internal research and development, relying more frequently on outside companies for innovation, which large companies will subsequently bring in-house, or look to partner with younger startup firms, investors said.
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Photo via Flickr user Pulmonary Pathology