An Epic Approach Toward Liquid Biopsy

San Diego, CA-based Epic Sciences has raised nearly $52 million in a series E round.

The liquid biopsy space continues to attract investors and bring in financings that are typically above the average amount medtech firms are able to raise. Epic Sciences is the latest liquid biopsy company to obtain funding and has raised about $52 million in a series E round.

The San Diego, CA-based company said the financing was led by Blue Ox Healthcare Partners, with participation by Deerfield Management and Varian. Existing investors, including Altos Capital Partners, Genomic Health Inc., Domain Associates, VI Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, and Sabby Management, also participated in the financing.

“What we’ve been able to do with this financing is bring thought-leading investors from around the world who have really understood Epic’s long-term vision and invest in that global potential," Murali Prahalad, Ph.D., president and CEO of Epic Sciences, told MD+DI.

Epic’s tests are developed with the company’s technology platform called No Cell Left Behind, which uses computer vision and machine learning algorithms to identify rare cancer cells in the blood and characterize immune response simultaneously.

The proceeds from the financing will be used to advance the firm’s portfolio.

“We clearly want to accelerate clinical trials for proprietary tests in earlier phases of development in our pipeline,” Prahalad said. “We think there are some huge blockbuster products at earlier stages and this will help us really turbo charge those clinical trials and accelerate them."

He added that the other use of the funding would be to obtain the regulatory approvals on the platform depending on the specific use case.

“As we see international opportunities emerge and also as we advance conversations for companion diagnostic development, we’ll obviously take the platform through whatever is the appropriate regulatory approval for the intended use case,” Prahalad said.

With more than 20 publications, 65 pharma partners, and 45 academic collaborators, Epic said it has demonstrated how its insights can aid in the characterization of therapeutic response and the early detection of drug resistance. The company also plans to use big data analytics to integrate test results with electronic medical records, establishing patterns of cancer cell evolution, drug selection, and clinical outcomes.

Prahalad noted that Epic has arguably had a machine learning component with its test for years now.

“The Epic Platform itself… was the earliest utilizer of computer vision and machine learning,” he said. “What we would do was take that patient blood sample and look at all of the cells present. We would essentially get millions of cells at a time on a series of proprietary glass slides and then use a combination of immunofluorescent stains and then computer vision and biology to reveal itself. We would then use analytics to essentially understand what was a rare event i.e., a circulating tumor cell vs. what was an essentially normal immune cell present in that sample.”

Earlier this year, the Oncotype DX AR-V7 Nucleus Detect test was launched as the world’s first predictive blood test that extends life by indicating when a patient with castration resistant metastatic prostate cancer needs to switch from targeted therapy to chemotherapy. Developed by Epic Sciences, the Oncotype DX AR-V7 Nucleus Detect test is offered exclusively by Genomic Health and is commercially available in the US.

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