Rethink DNA Sequencing

By David J. Martirano

We are excited to announce that Nabsys, a Point Judith Capital portfolio company which is dedicated to enabling advances in life sciences and healthcare through strategic deployment of its novel positional sequencing platform with broad applicability for DNA analysis, recently completed a Series D round of financing. The round was led by Bay City Capital, a leader in backing the most innovative life sciences companies. Bay City invested in Ion Torrent, a semiconductor-based short-read DNA sequencing company acquired by Life Technologies in 2010 for $725M. This remains the largest exit in the space to date. Nabsys is advancing the cause of semiconductor-based genomic analysis for the first time, applying it to individual DNA molecules rather than the large groups of amplified molecules required by Ion Torrent. By avoiding amplification, Nabsys is able to analyze molecules that are very large compared to those routinely analyzed by existing DNA sequencing technology. This allows Nabsys to obtain structural information that cannot be seen using many other technologies. In other words, Nabsys is able to find where in a genome sequences are located, hence the name positional sequencing. This information is largely absent from the data sets produced by the leading DNA sequencing technologies but is critically important for a full understanding of cancer and other diseases where genetic rearrangements play a major role. We are excited to welcome Bay City to the team to help us work towards this vision.

We first got involved with Nabsys when we led their Series A round of financing in April 2009. We’ve seen the company grow over the years and have helped them recruit a talented team – together adding Ray Stata, founder of Analog Devices, as an investor and board member, and adding Stan Rose, serial entrepreneur and Point Judith Operating Partner, as a board member and Chief Commercial Officer. The Nabsys team has made significant progress on the technical front and we’re excited as they begin to emerge as a leader in the genomic space.

Nabsys’s technology uniquely positions them in the race to more broadly apply genomic information to a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic markets. While other players in the DNA sequencing space (including Ion Torrent, Illumina, Pacific Biosciences, and Complete Genomics) have developed technologies to read short snippets of DNA, these technologies are limited in their ability to fully assemble the short sequences into a complete genome. Furthermore, the data generated by these technologies requires huge amounts of computational power to produce information useful for clinical feedback. Nabsys is able to avoid both the incomplete assembly and data overload by producing much longer range information that leads more directly to a genome map. This approach of focusing on mapping, or “positional sequencing,” expands the application of the technology from research to clinical use. Specifically, Nabsys believes this technology has an immediate application in the field of oncology where understanding how tumor genomes have rearranged will allow clinicians to better target and distribute chemotherapy to patients. Nabsys is able to do this via a solid-state approach in which the signal is produced and detected electronically. Other approaches, such as OpGen, have used lasers and expensive cameras for detection which lowers both the resolution and the number of genomes that can be analyzed. The only other nanodetector approach which claims to be approaching commercialization, Oxford Nanopore, uses biological components that slow down the speed of analysis and have problems with long term stability of the components. Nabsys, on the other hand, is fully solid state and requires no unstable proteins of expensive optical equipment. This provides for significantly greater speed, accuracy, and cost effectiveness necessary for clinical use. The market for this type of clinical use is very large, and we are excited about Nabsys’s potential to capitalize on this market.

Nabsys introduced their prototype machine at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference in Marco Island, Florida in February to positive reception. We are excited about the potential for their technology in the marketplace, and look forward to what is to come.

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