Karius says its $50 million Series A equity financing will help it advance its Digital Culture™ test

Karius said today it has raised $50 million in Series A equity financing toward advancing its diagnostic test, designed to enable broad and rapid detection of more than 1,250 pathogens by combining machine learning, proprietary genomics algorithms, and next-generation sequencing.

Karius’ Digital Culture™ test uses a standard blood draw to identify cell-free DNA fragments left by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other eukaryotic pathogens in a patient’s bloodstream, even when living organisms are no longer detectable. The company says it can return a diagnosis for patients, typically within one business day of blood sample receipt.

The test, Karius said, may be useful in patients with culture-negative infection including sepsis, endocarditis, and osteomyelitis; infection with fastidious or unculturable organisms; susceptibility to a wide breadth of pathogens due to immunosuppression; and deep infection that requires an invasive biopsy for diagnosis.

According to its website, Karius can detect through Digital Culture 757 bacteria, 333 fungi and molds, 104 viruses, and 58 protozoa.

Karius says it is the first company to make microbial cell-free DNA analysis data commercially available to clinicians through its CAP-accredited and CLIA-certified laboratory service.  

The company said it will use funds from the financing to further commercialize the Karius Digital Culture test, by supporting ongoing and new clinical trials, as well as scaling up laboratory capacity. Karius last year increased its laboratory space and capacity by recently moving into a new 25,000-square foot facility.

Data Collective (DCVC) and Lightspeed Venture Partners, both existing investors, co-led the financing, which according to the company saw “major” participation from new investors that included Tencent and Khosla Ventures. Two other existing investors also participated in the financing, Innovation Endeavors and Spectrum 28.

“We're excited to partner with this world-class group of investors and innovators to help us conquer infectious diseases using the power of genomics,” Karius CEO Mickey Kertesz, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Based in Redwood City, CA, Karius was founded in 2014 to commercialize technology developed by the lab of Stephen Quake, Ph.D., the company’s scientific co-founder and co-president of Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

Earlier this year at the American Society for Microbiology’s Microbe 2017 conference in New Orleans, Karius announced data from four studies showing the Karius Digital Culture test aided in rapid diagnosis of difficult-to-detect infections, monitoring of infections in high-risk patients, and reduction of the need for invasive biopsies.

In one of the four studies, blood samples were taken from emergency-room patients with sepsis who were tested via Karius Digital Culture. The pilot study of 100 patients showed results from the Karius test to be correlated with standard microbiology methods in 31 of 38 cases—while in an additional 16 patients, the Karius test was the only test to identify pathogens consistent with the clinical scenario.

Dr. Kertesz was previously CEO and co-founder of Moleculo, a long-reads DNA sequencing company that was acquired by Illumina in late 2012. As with Karius, Moleculo was formed to commercialize technology developed by Dr. Quake.

“Karius is poised to revolutionize infectious disease diagnostics with a hypothesis-free approach that represents a major paradigm shift for medicine,” Dr. Quake said in a statement.

Also of Interest