Lee Hood’s New Idea, Integrative Diagnostics for Early Cancer Detection, Raises $7.5M

Xconomy Seattle — 

[Update: 09/21/09, 6:27 pm. See below.] Leroy Hood’s new idea for a company that detects cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages in the bloodstream has gotten some venture capital after a year of effort. Seattle-based Integrative Diagnostics has secured $7.5 million out of a $30 million equity round, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The filing doesn’t say who invested in the company, and when I reached Hood by phone late this afternoon, he said the company was preparing a press release and not yet ready to make that disclosure.

Xconomy first described Integrative Diagnostics almost exactly a year ago, when Hood declared in an interview that “this company is going to transform medicine, I guarantee you.” Hood, the inventor of high-speed gene sequencing machines and founder of 13 biotech companies, said he was enthused by the potential for Integrative Diagnostics to usher in the era of what he calls P4 medicine—shorthand for predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory medicine.

The idea is to create a new generation of more precise diagnostics that can look at a pinprick of blood and spot cancer cells at their earliest, most treatable, stages of development before people even have symptoms. The company is co-founded by Hood, his fellow faculty member David Galas at the Institute for Systems Biology, and Jim Heath, a chemist at Caltech who is the inventor of two technologies that improve measurement of blood proteins. One is a microfluidic chip that “will do for proteins what DNA chips did for messenger RNA or DNA fragments,” said Hood. The other is a set of simple chemicals Heath has developed to replace antibodies in diagnostic tests, which are hard to make and too unreliable, Hood said.

An earlier version of this technology was incubated starting in 2005 at the Accelerator, the Seattle-based venture-backed startup machine that’s affiliated with Hood’s Institute for Systems Biology. The company, called Homestead Clinical, was one of the companies that didn’t “graduate” from the Accelerator with venture rounds, like VLST, Allozyne, and Theraclone Sciences did.

Hood said at the time, about a year ago, that he thought it would take a couple months to get funding for Integrative Diagnostics, but that obviously stretched to a full year during the recession. He was bullish enough during that earlier interview to say he expected Integrative Diagnostics to give birth to at least five or six companies in the future. I expect to hear more details from the biotech pioneer tomorrow, and will be quick with updates when I know more.

[Additional comment from Carl Weissman, CEO of Accelerator, 09/21/09, 6:27 pm.]

“Integrative Diagnostics, or InDi, is partially based upon technology that was developed at Homestead Clinical Corp. while within Accelerator, or was the subject of an option agreement between Homestead and Caltech. So this is our fourth graduate,” Weissman says. “We always believed in the conceptual basis of the company at Accelerator, but we needed discovery technology to advance to a level that would enable the concept. InDi also disproves a long-held belief that no company could graduate from Accelerator without the financial support of Accelerator investors. We at Accelerator are very gratified with this outcome and fully support the company.”

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