Unchained Labs Grabs $25M and New Device to Test Stability of Proteins

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Unchained Labs can now say it has financial stability after raising $25 million in Series A funding from venture capital investors Novo Ventures, Canaan Partners, and TPG Biotech.

What it still must prove is that its newly acquired first product, Optim, can provide its customers with stability, too.

After securing the financing, Pleasanton, CA-based Unchained Labs purchased the Optim assets and intellectual property from British medical device maker Avacta Group for $3.5 million upfront and as much as $1.5 million more based on potential sales. The company now plans to build-out sales of the Optim device to research labs in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. That will be done in part by adding sales, marketing, and engineering personnel, CEO and Founder Tim Harkness said in a telephone interview.

Optim is a machine that can be used by research labs looking to develop biologics to test protein stability. It lets a user measure up to 48 samples at once, testing factors such as temperature, time, and the chemical environment on large molecules, Harkness said.

“The more stable a biologic is, the longer it will last and the more certain you can be that what you produce, you can ultimately end up giving to a human,” he said. “This allows you to do it very quickly.”

Unchained Labs expects to continue to buy other businesses and product lines as it grows, and may also enhance the capabilities of Optim by adding other systems to measure stability in samples, Harkness said.

“We think there is a lot of room for improvement in the characterization of biologics,” Harkness said. “We are big believers in the trend toward increasing investments in biologics. That is where blockbusters are today.”

The pharmaceutical industry is shifting its focus from small molecule drugs to biotech products, according to one study from late 2013 by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. It found that biotech products accounted for 71 percent of the 10 top-selling products in 2012, up from 7 percent in 2001.

Avacta Group had shipped 18 units of the Optim device as of the end of its 2014 fiscal year in July, recording sales of 1.19 million pounds ($2.01 million), according to an annual report. That translates into a cost of almost $112,000 per Optim machine.