£40m for Oxford Nanopore but still no launch date
Oxford Nanopore Technologies has raised £40 million in new VC funding, but would not say whether it was enough to take what could be a groundbreaking gene sequencing technology through to a commercial launch.
The company, which has its informatics hub at Chesterford Research Park, had previously hoped to release its nanopore-based sequencing technology in 2012, but has had to deal with problems to a key sensor and the distractions of legal proceedings relating to a 2009 commercialisation agreement with one time investor, Illumina.
The ties to Illumina go deeper still, Oxford Nanopore’s CSO, Dr John Milton, and CTO, Clive Brown, were both at Solexa, the Cambridge University gene sequencing spin-out acquired by Illumina for $600m in 2006.
Oxford Nanopore will be appearing at the American Society of Human Genetics conference next month where some kind of update is expected, though whether it is a full commercial launch remains to be seen.
The Oxford Nanopore technology uses a nanopore-based electronic system for analysis of single molecules including DNA, RNA and proteins. There was widespread interest when the company showcased the two products it was working on last year, particularly the miniaturised MinION device, a USB stick sized disposable sequencer.
The company has now raised a total of £145 million since its incorporation in 2005 including major rounds in each of the last three years: £25m in 2011, £31.4m in 2012 and this year’s £40m.
This latest funding is said to have come from new and existing investors, one of which is IP Group, which now holds a 19.6 per cent stake in the firm which it values at £104.3m, which compares to £66.5m for the 21.3 per cent stake it held in May 2012 and £33.4m for 21.5 per cent in April 2011.
A statement fromOxford Nanopore regarding the fundraising said it would be used for commercial and manufacturing infrastructure as well as continued R&D into nanopore sensing. It will also be used to shore up the company’s intellectual property portfolio, which includes over 350 owned or licensed patents and patent applications.