Personal Genome Diagnostics closes $75 million financing round

Personal Genome Diagnostics, a Baltimore-based cancer diagnostics company, has raised $75 million to expand access to genomic testing for cancer patients.

The Series B financing round was led by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb and existing investor New Enterprise Associates with contributions from Inova Strategic Investments, Co-win Healthcare Fund, Helsinn Investment Fund, Windham Venture Partners and the Maryland Venture Fund.

Douglas Ward, CEO of Personal Genome Diagnostics, or PGDx, described the new funding and test development as an “important next step in our effort to empower the fight against cancer.”

The company specializes in analyzing cancer patients’ genes to improve diagnosis and treatment options. Cancer manifests differently in each patient, and a personalized analysis allows doctors to tailor treatment.

PGDx will use the new funding to develop an in-vitro diagnostic, or IVD, test kit that will make it easier for patients to access genomic testing.

Currently, these tests are primarily performed in labs and can vary between facilities. Labs that want to use PGDx diagnostic tests must send their samples to the company’s Baltimore labs, delaying results and a treatment plan.

PGDx plans to seek regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and international regulatory agencies, which will allow the company to package the tests into kits that can be used by labs around the world to perform the test in-house.

“The key differentiation is we’re simplifying this testing such that labs throughout the world can use it,” Ward said.

PGDx is gaining a valuable pharmaceutical partner as it embarks on the development of the test kits. Ward said he could not discuss details of PGDx’s work with Bristol-Myers Squibb, but said the global pharmaceutical company’s investment in PGDx was a strong vote of confidence in their approach.

Paul Biondi, a senior vice president at Bristol-Myers Squibb, said in a statement that the company was eager to work with PGDx.

“PGDx is a pioneer in cancer genome testing, and we are excited to become a strategic investor as they broaden their focus to develop and market IVD tests and seek to make tumor profiling more accessible to patients,” Biondi said.

Large pharmaceutical companies often seek out smaller companies as partners to fill gaps in their offerings, rather than trying to develop new technology in-house, said Parag Sheth, who works with early stage companies as director of the Maryland Venture Fund, a state-supported fund that invests in early stage companies. The fund is among PGDx’s investors.

While Bristol-Myers will gain access to the diagnostic technology PGDx has spent years developing, the Baltimore company will benefit from access to new expertise in personalized medicine, on top of significant financial and brand backing, Sheth said.

“It’s a mutually dependent relationship,” he said.

Sometimes the larger company ends up acquiring its smaller partner. In other instances, the smaller company may decide it is better off establishing partnerships with multiple large companies, rather than joining one, Sheth said.

PGDx was founded in 2010 by Dr. Luis Diaz and Dr. Victor Velculescu, leaders in cancer genomics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

The Series B round was first reported to federal regulators in October, when the company had raised $65 million toward its funding goal. The company announced Thursday it had closed the round.

The latest financing brings the company’s total equity funding to more than $99 million.

In 2015, New Enterprise Associates led a $21.4 million Series A funding round. The company previously raised $2.8 million in seed financing.

PGDx employs 185 people and is based in Canton.

With plans to grow staff by up to 25 percent in the coming year, PGDx is expanding to a second facility in Brewer’s Hill, which will house laboratory and product development operations.

Sheth said the company’s growth is a positive sign for Baltimore, as the city’s anchor universities look to commercialize more of their research into patents, licenses and successful startup companies.

“It’s significant because this is a company that was built out of Hopkins, funded by local folks, and has grown to be a significant player in what I think is the really exciting future of cancer therapeutics,” he said.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

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