BioNano Raises $53M to Identify “Structural Variations” in Genome

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researchers to identify a host of crucial structural variations in DNA strands that cannot be discerned by next-gen sequencing. Each strand consists of hundreds of thousands of base pairs, and the enzyme labels enable researchers to map variations that include the location of a gene on a chromosome, and the existence of stretches of DNA that are repeated, inverted, or deleted.

In a statement today, Legend Capital’s executive director, Darren Cai, says the ability to understand  structural variations is recognized as an essential tool for applying genomic information in diagnosing and treating human diseases. For example, in most cases of chronic myelogeous leukemia (and some cases of acute lymphocytic and myelogenous leukemia), a piece of chromosome 9 and a piece of chromosome 22 break off and switch places in a translocation known as the Philadelphia chromosome.

[Corrected to show quote attributed to Jim Blair was from Tracy Warren] According to a spokeswoman for the company, Tracy Warren, a general partner of Battelle Ventures and chairwoman of BioNano’s board, describes the Irys System as “the missing link between sequencing data and actionable clinical data.”

Image from Irys System shows parallel DNA strands with fluorescent tags

Image from Irys System shows parallel DNA strands with fluorescent tags

“Customers are adopting our system to address a heretofore unaddressable core of genomic variation called structural variation,” and that makes BioNano’s Irys System complementary to next-gen sequencing machines, Holmlin said. As a result, BioNano is selling its Irys System to many of the same academic research institutions that buy equipment from Illumina.

With the latest round of funding, Holmlin says, “We will use this capital to accelerate global sales of Irys and to invest in next-generation innovation to address the untapped, multi-billion dollar genome-mapping market.”

In addition to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, BioNano has disclosed Irys sales to Australia’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Israel’s Tel Aviv University, UC Davis, and The Genome Analysis Centre and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near London.

Campbell Murray, managing director at the Novartis Venture Fund, is quoted in the company’s statement as saying, “We saw that BioNano has the only commercial genome mapping system that can systematically analyze clinically important [structural variations], including DNA rearrangements and recombinations, and were inspired to provide capital and expertise to BioNano.”

Murray and Legend Capital’s Cai also are joining BioNano’s board of directors.

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