Oncology diagnostics company Epic Sciences, which last year launched what it describes as the only test that can help guide treatment for patients with advanced prostate cancer, has raised $52 million in a financing led by New York private equity firm Blue Ox Healthcare Partners to develop tests to address more types of cancer.
The San Diego-based company, which announced the close of the Series E round Wednesday, said it will use the proceeds to create additional blood tests, often referred to as liquid biopsies, to help guide clinicians in selecting the best course of treatment for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Earlier this month Epic named Katherine Atkinson its first chief commercial officer and tasked her with developing Epic’s global commercial strategy. Atkinson was most recently vice president of business development at another San Diego-based startup, Edico Genome, which was acquired for $100 million by San Diego-based genome sequencing giant Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) in May.
Epic (not to be confused with Verona, WI, healthcare software company Epic Systems) says its platform, which it has dubbed No Cancer Cell Left Behind, uses computer vision and machine learning algorithms to identify rare cancer cells in the blood. By identifying those cells and understanding how they interact with immune cells following treatment with cancer drugs, the company says its technology can help determine how a patient is likely to respond to a particular therapy. Epic licensed the technology underpinning its platform from Scripps Research Institute.
Liquid biopsies, which require only a small blood sample, are less invasive than a biopsy, which requires the removal of tissue. Epic is among a number of companies developing blood tests intended to improve the quality of cancer care. Freenome and Grail, both in the San Francisco Bay Area, are developing blood diagnostics to detect early-stage cancers.
Typically, cancer treatments are selected based on the type of cancer, its size, and whether it has spread. Personalized medicine, an increasingly popular approach to healthcare, uses scientific advances to include patient genetics in determining treatment.
In 2017 Epic partnered with Genomic Health, a Redwood City, CA-based company that provides genomic-based cancer diagnostic tests, to bring Epic’s first diagnostic text to market.
Epic president and CEO Murali Prahalad said in May of that year that the company had raised an additional $40 million to fund the effort. Up to that point, Prahalad said Epic had raised $50 million. Epic said the blood test, which is being sold by Genomic Health (NASDAQ: GHDX), reveals whether a patient with late-stage prostate cancer would respond to hormone-based therapy or should instead receive chemotherapy.
A paper published this year in the journal JAMA Oncology made the case that the test, Oncotype DX AR-V7 Nucleus Detect, could help those with that particular form of advanced cancer by detecting the presence of a type of protein that indicates resistance to a popular targeted therapy.
Epic said it also intends to use the proceeds from the financing to integrate its platform with electronic medical records with the aim of identifying patterns of cancer cell evolution, drug selection, and clinical outcomes.
Deerfield Management and Varian (NYSE: VAR) also participated in the latest financing, as did earlier investors including Altos Capital Partners, Genomic Health, Domain Associates, VI Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, and Sabby Management.
Deerfield, which has offices in New York, Shanghai, and Switzerland, invests in healthcare companies. Palo Alto, CA-based Varian is a medical device and software maker that focuses on cancer care.