The underlying biology behind autism is largely a mystery, and you need look no further than how it’s diagnosed for the evidence.
A child has to go through a series of behavioral evaluations before a team of experts label him or her with the disorder and begin treatment. Unfortunately, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show this is most likely to happen when the child is already at least four years old, when it is less likely that treatment will have a profound effect. This inefficiency is right where veteran diagnostics entrepreneur Stanley Lapidus thinks his four-year-old startup, SynapDx, can help—and he’s now got some big-name venture backers and a big roll of cash to prove it.
Lexington, MA-based SynapDx has raised $15.4 million in equity financing, bringing the total amount it has raised since its inception to at least $32.4 million, according to Lapidus, the company’s president, CEO, and founder. The round was led by two new investors, Google Ventures and Foundation Medical Partners, and included founding investors North Bridge Venture Partners and General Catalyst Partners. Kraft Group and LabCorp (NYSE: LH) have also recently invested in the company.
SynapDx will use the cash to bankroll a 660-patient, 20-site study in the U.S. and Canada for the company’s diagnostic, which is a blood-based test that determines whether a young child possesses certain biomarkers that researchers believe put him or her at high risk for autism. SynapDx is enrolling children between the ages of 18 months and 60 months that have been referred by doctors because they have shown signs of autism. Lapidus declined to specify how far along SynapDx is in the study, or when he expects the company to finish it. But SynapDx hopes the trial will give the company enough evidence to win approval from regulators and begin marketing the diagnostic to primary pediatricians.
SynapDx was started up in 2009 by Lapidus, who is perhaps best known for founding women’s health diagnostics firm Cytyc and selling it for a fortune—$6.2 billion—to Bedford, MA-based Hologic (NASDAQ: Hologic) in 2007. Lapidus became interested in autism in the summer of 2009, knowing that because the underlying biology is so misunderstood, any impact that he could make on the field could be massive. He met two researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston in 2009, Isaac Kohane and Louis Kunkel, who showed him some data indicating that one could look at RNA expression in blood samples to differentiate between autistic and non-autistic children. Intrigued by the idea, Lapidus licensed the technology and started up SynapDx with a $9 million round led by Bain Capital Ventures, General Catalyst, and North Bridge.
Lapidus saw an opportunity in … Next Page »