Busy month for IntegenX
PLEASANTON, Calif.—February proved to be a busy month for microsample prep company IntegenX Inc. as it seeks to secure a leading position in sample preparation for genetic analysis. Within the first few days of the month, IntegenX announced the completion of a transaction to acquire substantially all the stock of GenVault Corp. and the closing of a $15.6 million Series B round of financing led by life science venture capital firm Domain Associates. Then in two separate late-February announcements, IntegenX let the world know it signed deals with Caliper Life Sciences and SoftGenetics to build out the capabilities of its DNA profiling platform.
The addition of GenVault's products to the IntegenX portfolio allows IntegenX to offer products that will make transportation and storage of user samples easier without needing refrigeration and without degradation, says Dr. Stevan Jovanovich, president and CEO of IntegenX, and the GenTegra products are now a part of IntegenX's "sample-to-answer" process control. This will, he asserts, increase the quality and value of data produced by IntegenX's integrated sample preparation systems, as well as help IntegenX position itself farther upstream in the sequencing market.
"As more and more genetic samples are stored and prepared for analysis, the potential for losing sample integrity while waiting for chemistry preparation increases," Jovanovich notes. "This affects data quality and is therefore an acute issue for nucleic acid sample preparation. The GenVault products address this problem successfully by stabilizing both RNA and DNA for next-generation sequencing, genotyping, forensic analysis and other genomic applications."
As for the Series B capital influx, Jovanovich says IntegenX will fund the commercialization of the Apollo 324 System for next-generation sequencing library preparation, the development of the Apollo 200 RapidHIT System for DNA-based human identification and global marketing of the GenTegra product line.
The Domain Associates-led financing included participation from previous investors In-Q-Tel and RONAholdings LLC, and also brings in participation from GenVault investors QuestMark Partners, Cross Creek Partners and Greenspring Associates, thanks to the acquisition.
"The management team at IntegenX has brought more than 40 products to market over the past 20 years at Applied Biosystems, Molecular Dynamics, Amersham and other successful companies," says Dr. Jim Blair, founding partner at Domain Associates. "By focusing on system integration and sample preparation, IntegenX has built a valuable portfolio of products for sequencing and human identification that are needed in the market right now."
And that portfolio-boosting talk segues right into the two late-February deals struck by IntegenX.
In one of those deals, IntegenX gains access to Caliper's microfluidics patent portfolio, and Jovanovich intends to leverage Caliper's technology and other intellectual property to boost efforts in commercializing the Apollo 200 system. According to IntegenX, profiles generated on the system can be used to match existing DNA records in various databases or even expand them.
Jovanovic says the agreement with Caliper "supports our sample-to-answer strategy and enables us to build upon IntegenX's core strengths in product development and integration."
In the second deal announced in late February, SoftGenetics will provide GeneMarker HID forensics software to IntegenX to enhance data analysis features in the Apollo 200 system, allowing for the generation of unique human DNA profiles in standardized formats.
While these four milestones are all clustered together in a single month, IntegenX hasn't been dormant up to this point.
In March 2010, the company—formerly known as Microchip Biotechnologies—changed to the IntegenX moniker to better acknowledge the company's focus on integrating sample preparation and analysis technologies into complete products "that address generic problems shared by life science and biotechnology research laboratories worldwide," according to the company.
Jovanovic believes his company's technology will eliminate the most acute pain points affecting widely adopted laboratory workflows, in part with the help of Integenx's MOVe valves and integration of fragmented metering, mixing and dispensing of microliter volumes, which are part of the Apollo system.
"Many scientists no longer have the time or the skill to integrate reagent kits, columns, beads, mixers, detectors, incompatible protocols and instruments that don't communicate with each other," Jovanovich said at the time. "We automate the most fragmented workflow elements into automated systems that provide predictable, high quality molecular biology output. For the lab worker, researcher, forensic scientist or lab clinician, IntegenX makes the usage of DNA and RNA accessible to staff who do not have to become technology specialists in sample preparation."
The name change was followed by the opening of a new headquarters and manufacturing facility roughly a month later because the company had outgrown its location in nearby Dublin, Calif. "This new location provides a more collaborative environment where we can discuss ideas easily and solve problems quickly, and the space and facilities we need to ramp up operations," Jovanovich said at the time.
That, in turn, was followed some months later with the October 2010 announcement that the company was awarded a contract worth as much as $14.8 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop an integrated sample-to-sequence system that could rapidly detect and identify genetically engineered, medically relevant and emerging pathogens from environmental samples. After that came a November 2010 announcement that IntegenX received four grants totaling $976,000 under the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Program (QTDP).
"We are pleased to receive federal recognition that our platforms have the potential for impacting the development of therapeutics, molecular diagnostics, and discovery of genetic markers that will improve outcomes for patients," Jovanovich says.
The QTDP is provided under Section 48D of the Internal Revenue Code, enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010. Qualifying projects had to show potential to produce new therapies, reduce long-term healthcare costs, or significantly advance the goal of curing cancer within the next 30 years. Preference was given to projects that showed the greatest potential to create and sustain high-quality, high-paying jobs in the U.S. and advance the country's competitiveness in the fields of life, biological and medical sciences.