Good Start Genetics Emerges from Stealth with $18M Series A Round

Xconomy Boston — 

Good Start Genetics is making boosters from all corners of the life sciences sector in Massachusetts look really good today. The Boston-based startup, which is developing genetic tests for prospective parents, says today that it has finished raising an $18 million Series A round of funding. There appear to be a number of people and organizations in the Bay State that have helped bring the firm to this point.

Good Start has rallied some of the usual suspects in healthcare investing for its maiden funding round: OrbiMed Advisors, Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE:SFE), and SV Life Sciences. The capital infusion is intended to pay for development and the planned 2011 launch of the firm’s genetic sequencing-based service that hopes to test people prior to pregnancy to assess the likelihood of whether a couple will have a child with a genetic disease. The company believes that sequencing genes, rather than using standard genotyping or SNP-based tests that look for specific genes in a sample, could improve a doctor’s ability to tell a patient whether he or she could have a child with a genetic disease.

Founded in December 2007, Good Start has cleared a several hurdles to finish its first-round financing. The startup was born at Harvard University, based partially on science from the lab of genetics professor George Church, and a business plan hatched by students at Harvard Business School. The company got some early traction when it was named runner up in the HBS Business Plan Contest in 2008. Bob Carpenter, an influential director of the Cambridge, MA-based biotech giant Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ), was a judge in the business plan contest and was impressed enough with the Good Start team to take it under his wing. Carpenter is currently on the startup’s board of directors. Harvard’s Church is a scientific advisor to the firm.

More things started to click last year for Good Start, which operates out of the Boston University Photonics Center (though CEO Don Hardison says that the firm will be moving soon to somewhere in the Boston-Cambridge area). The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the quasi-public agency that manages the state’s $1 billion plan to spur growth in the state’s life sciences sector, awarded the company a $500,000 loan through its Accelerator Fund. Again, the Good Start team caught the attention of a major player in biotech, Marc Beer, a former member of the board at the Life Sciences Center. Beer, who was previously the CEO of the former Cambridge biotech ViaCell, also got involved with Good Start and has become the startup’s chairman.

With the pedigree of so many prominent advisors, Good Start has attracted some top-tier venture backers. New York-based OrbiMed was the first venture firm to commit funding to Good Start, Hardison says. And later came the Wayne, PA-based investment firm Safeguard and SV Life Sciences, which has offices in Boston, Foster City, CA, and London. OrbiMed and SV Life Sciences have closed the two largest healthcare-focused venture funds, both totaling more than half a billion dollars, this year.

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