NIPT Startup Cradle Genomics Closes $17.1M Series A Financing

A San Diego startup non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) developer has raised $17.1 million in a Series A financing designed to support clinical development, corporate infrastructure, CLIA lab operations, and the commercial launch of its assays.

Cradle Genomics said it will use the financing to support clinical development, corporate infrastructure, CLIA lab operations, and the commercial launch of its NIPT tests.

Cradle Genomics’ proprietary assay is designed to increase the purity of fetal DNA, enabling testing as early as week 5 of a pregnancy while delivering what the company says is the most comprehensive content among all NIPT providers for increased clinical utility.

The company says its tests are an improvement from current NIPT offerings, which rely on measuring trace amounts of circulating cell-free fetal DNA in maternal serum. The relatively low fraction of fetal DNA in maternal blood, according to Cradle Genomics, limits the scope of fetal genetic analysis, and thus the pregnancy stage when testing can be offered.

“Our mission at Cradle Genomics is to deliver genetic knowledge for life, with a vision of better outcomes for every pregnancy,” Tristan Orpin, CEO of Cradle Genomics, said in a statement. “We’re dedicated to the transformation of NIPT by offering the most comprehensive fetal genetic analysis and pregnancy health screening solutions at the earliest stages of pregnancy.”

Orpin is one of Cradle genomics’ four co-founders. The other three are VP of Research Randy Armant, PhD; VP of Development Sascha Drewlo, PhD; and VP of Commercial Richard Shippy.

Orpin previously served as Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Vice President of Clinical Genomics at Illumina, and earlier held executive positions at Sequenom and Bio-Rad Laboratories. Shippy was formerly Senior Director of Strategic Product Marketing in Reproductive and Genetic Health at Illumina.

A third former Illumina executive, Jeff Eidel, joined Cradle Genomics this month as Operations Officer after previously serving as Illumina’s Head of Corporate and Business Development. Eidel earlier held various finance, commercial and corporate and business development leadership roles within the company. Among those roles was general manager of Illumina’s Madison, WI, site following Illumina’s acquisition of Epicentre Biotechnologies.

Illumina Ventures—an independently managed venture capital firm launched with $100 million from Illumina in 2016—joined VC firm Section 32 in leading the Series A round, with participation from additional investors that included Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Sea Lane Ventures, Listwin Ventures, and Axon Ventures.

While Cradle Genomics has its headquarters in San Diego, the company maintains R&D operations in Detroit at Wayne State University, where Armant is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Armant’s lab studies the biology of trophoblast cells in animal models, human cell lines, and human placental tissue.

“We work with physician-scientists on an approach that captures and isolates human trophoblast cells during the first trimester from ongoing pregnancies, using a noninvasive endocervical collection procedure identical to a Pap smear,” according to Armant’s lab website.

“Trophoblast retrieval and isolation from the cervix (TRIC) is being explored for applications in fetal genetic testing, perinatal disease diagnosis, and translational research to investigate human placentation. The vision of our research is to enhance the management of pregnancy by providing information about placental development acquired in real time with trophoblast cells obtained by TRIC.”

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