Lilly backs Singlera for $20M assault on U.S. assay market

Aiming to conquer the diagnostics market in the U.S. and China, the genetic testing firm Singlera Genomics nabbed $20 million in a fundraising round led by Lilly Asia Ventures.

The startup has three diagnostic tests on the market in China, and it's developing a suite of 'translational diagnostics'--new assays based on molecular pathology research that can be used to craft personalized medical treatment for diseases such as cancer.

The funding round, backed by Lilly Asia Ventures, Green Pine Capital Partners and CDBI Capital among others investors, will help Singlera advance its pipeline and expand its R&D facilities. Set up in 2014, Singlera now operates a business and clinical operations unit in Shanghai, and an R&D facility in La Jolla, CA.

Singlera COO Qiang Liu told FiercePharma that the company is working to register its facilities with the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), developing a GMP manufacturing site and centralized services lab, and building a new lab at its La Jolla site. 

Singlera is also seeking pharma partners for personalized treatment/companion diagnostic projects, Quiang said, and is currently talking with Roche and AstraZeneca.

Singlera has developed a technology platform based on single cell sequencing, DNA methylation and bioinformatics that allows multiple cancer types to be detected using a simple blood test. At the moment, the company has three non-invasive genetic tests on the market in China, including two OncoAim products for detecting tumor genetic mutations and lung cancer, and a BRCAim kit for breast cancer mutations. 

"Once our La Jolla lab is Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified, we will start to market these products in the U.S.," said Qiang.

These diagnostics could be joined shortly by a colorectal cancer screening test that is due for launch in 2017, and a non-invasive plasma circulating tumor DNA test which is at the validation stage and could be on the market before year-end.

Singlera's chairman Prof Yuan Gao said the funding was a "vote of confidence" in Singlera's technologies, research and operations.

The fundraising comes after a series of collaborations between Singlera and academic institutions, including a project with Yale University that will put the company's noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) technology through its paces in detecting chromosomal abnormalities.

Last month, the company joined forces with China's Fudan University to screen samples from 200,000 patients for biomarkers that could be useful for early-stage cancer detection. The ultimate goal is to "predict cancer and/or detect it early, and eliminate cancer as a life-threatening disease," the company said.

- read the Singlera press release

Related articles:
China's Zixin Pharmaceutical buys majority stake in U.S. genome firm Nabsys
China's iCarbonX gets $45M as part of growing precision medicine push
WuXi NextCODE unit launches China Precision Medicine Cloud with Huawei
Chinese sequencing sector heats up as BGI, Direct Genomics prepare products
Low-cost genomic sequencing on the slate for China with Veritas landing?
Illumina teams up with Chinese genomics firm for noninvasive prenatal test development