Stratos Genomics, a Seattle-based developer of low-cost gene sequencing technology, said today it has raised $4 million in a Series A round of venture financing. The deal was led by Fisk Ventures, and included Stratos Group LLC.
While the amount of investment isn’t huge, the fact that Stratos raised the cash is interesting on its own. The field of low-cost, high-speed gene sequencing has become fiercely competitive recently with the planned IPOs of Menlo Park, CA-based Pacific Biosciences and Mountain View, CA-based Complete Genomics, as well as innovations from established players like San Diego’s Illumina and Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies.
Stratos Genomics hasn’t said much publicly about what it is developing that’s different from the others, but the firm suggested in its statement that it has technology that should enable it to compete in the field of personalized medicine. If these companies can make it possible for genomes to be sequenced for less than $1,000 in a short amount of time, they contend, it could usher in the long-awaited era of personalized medicine, in which doctors can predict and help prevent certain illnesses based on an individual’s risk profile.
“In the midst of the current, highly-charged genomic sequencing market, this investment in Stratos Genomics is an important statement. It indicates not only the validity of the technology but confidence in our future success,” Stratos Genomics CEO, Allan Stephan, said in a statement.
While Stratos Genomics has been stealthy since its founding in 2007, it has offered a couple of clues this year about what it’s doing. In January, it was granted three months of access to a microfabrication lab at the University of Washington that’s operated by the Washington Technology Center. Stratos’s proposal was to create a “Nanopore Noise Reduction Project” that “creates, encodes and measures surrogate molecules derived from DNA targets to produce DNA sequence information,” according to a statement at the time from the Washington Technology Center. A couple of notable startups—Oxford Nanopore Technologies, and Ion Torrent Systems—have said they also are developing nanopore-based systems to make gene sequencing cheaper and faster than what’s on the market today. In April, Stratos Genomics noted that Heiner Dreismann, the former CEO of Roche Molecular Diagnostics, had joined its board of directors.
We’ll be watching to see what Stratos Genomics really has in mind, and whether it’s got something here that could make an impact on this fast-moving field. Stay tuned.