Sydney-based venture SpeeDx, which is enhancing the capabilities and utility of standard polymerase chain reaction tests (PCR tests) to detect specific cancers and infectious diseases, has raised $26 million in a tranche backed by heavyweight healthtech investors.
Announced today, SpeeDx has received the support of investors including US-based Northpond Ventures, Platinum Asset Management (ASX: PTM) and Tenmile - the latter being a healthtech fund of Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and his wife Nicola’s private investment vehicle Tattarang.
The funds raised, of which Tenmile contributed $5 million, will be used to accelerate the development of SpeeDx’s technology that aims to transform PCR tests’ utility from just COVID-19 detection to determining if people have specific cancers like colorectal, lung and melanomas as well as infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites.
Launched in August last year, Tenmile was established by Tattarang to back the ‘future of Australian healthcare innovation’, and has an initial capital allocation of $250 million making it one of the largest diversified private investment groups in the country.
Since its launch, Tenmile has invested in the likes of medicinal cannabis and MDMA innovator Emyria (ASX: EMD) and made a US$10 million commitment to combat peanut allergies via an investment in clinical stage biotechnology company Aravax.
The fund’s latest move will support SpeeDx’s tech department and facilitate its expansion into the US, with Tenmile executive chair Dr Steve Burnell noting the Tattarang subsidiary was in a unique position to capitalise on the efficiency and productivity advantages offered by the Sydney-based company’s PCR technologies.
“PCR-based diagnostics remain the gold standard and we are excited about SpeeDx’s multiplexed solutions for large, high-throughput labs who are seeking to capitalise on expanded capacity that was generated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Brunell said.
Co-founded by chief scientific officer Alison Todd and chief technology officer Elisa Mokany in 2009, SpeeDx specialises in molecular diagnostic solutions that go beyond simple detection to provide comprehensive information for patient care and management.
The company, which was spun out of a diagnostics development program inside healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, has licensing and partnership deals with the likes of Roche, GSK, Cepheid, Biocartis and LabCorp.
Its flagship products identify bacteria behind sexually transmitted infections and also show if there is resistance or sensitivity to antibiotics so doctors can choose the most effective drug.
“Our team of talented scientists are developing new technologies that are promising to be real game changers, broadening multiplex PCR capabilities to improve patient diagnoses,” co-founder Todd said.
“The process of developing life-changing products continues to motivate me every day.”
SpeeDx CEO Colin Denver added that the support of investors will let the company ‘shine on the world stage’. To-date, SpeeDx has global offices in London and Austin, Texas in addition to its Sydney headquarters.
“Australian companies have a long history of developing world-class technologies,” Denver said.
“With the support of committed healthcare investors such as Tenmile, we can continue to shine on the world stage.”
Platinum Investment Management portfolio manager Dr Bianca Ogden said SpeeDx was a 'great Australian molecular diagnostic success story' that was on the precipice of global success.
“The global diagnostic industry is dominated by large multi-nationals. Alison and Elisa’s strategy to develop a platform that works across different equipment makers has been smart, it allowed many of these large companies to evaluate it and see how adaptable it is," Ogden said.
“Given the pandemic there is now a large installed base of instruments that are in need of diagnostic tests, we call that menu, and hence Speedx essentially has the goods to provide menu expansion for the large established companies”
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