Epic Sciences plans to accelerate development of its liquid biopsy cancer tests

Epic Sciences said it will use proceeds from a recently-completed $40 million Series D financing to accelerate development of its liquid biopsy cancer tests, and enhance its platform technology for identifying and characterizing rare cells, including circulating tumor cells (CTCs).

Epic’s tests are designed to predict drug response in cancer. The company said it plans to speed up clinical studies for oncology tests in the company's pipeline as well as enhance its proprietary No Cell Left Behind technology to include characterization of rare leukocyte cell populations, using next generation digital imaging and big data analytics. The enhancements will enable new insight into the cellular drivers of response or resistance to key drug classes such as immuno-oncology drugs, Epic said.

“This funding will help advance our mission to provide physicians and patients with the most predictive, precise and personalized information to guide cancer therapy,” Epic Sciences President and CEO Murali Prahalad, Ph.D., said in a statement.

In July 2016, the company launched its partnership with Genomic Health to commercialize Epic’s OncotypeDx AR-V7 Nucleus Detect as a diagnostic for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC).

The blood-based test is designed to detect the V7 variant of the androgen receptor protein (AR-V7) in the nucleus of CTCs, information intended to help guide treatment selection—including when to proceed with taxane chemotherapy or androgen directed therapeutics.

The AR-V7 test identifies patients with truncated AR protein in the nucleus of CTCs, who may display resistance to an androgen directed therapeutic such as Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Biotech’s Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) or Xtandi (enzalutamide), co-marketed in the U.S. by Astellas Pharma and Medivation, a Pfizer subsidiary.

Epic has published clinical data in the journals JAMA Oncology and European Urology on the OncotypeDx AR-V7 Nucleus Detect test in mCRPC.  The data showed that patients with detectable levels of AR-V7 positive CTCs in their blood showed significantly better clinical outcomes when treated with taxane chemotherapy than more expensive targeted therapies.

The company has projected that about 50,000 mCRPC patients could benefit each year from knowing their AR-V7 status before selecting a treatment.

Hermed Capital, a private equity fund that invests primarily in healthcare, led the financing, with participation by Altos Capital Partners, Domain Associates, Genomic Health, Pagoda Investment, Reach Tone Limited, RMI Partners, Sabby Capital and VI Ventures.

“We look forward to assisting Epic in exploring the Chinese market and commercializing its CTC platform and No Cell Left Behind technology,” added Jerry Xiao, Ph.D., managing director of Hermed Capital.

Epic has raised a total of about $85 million in venture capital since it was spun out of The Scripps Research Institute in 2008.

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