Rapid Micro Biosystems Raises $18.6M for Faster Detection of Microbial Contamination

7/8/09Follow @xconomy

Rapid Micro Biosystems, a Bedford, MA-based developer of technology that quickly spots microbes that can cause disaster in the biotech drugmaking process, has nailed down a whopping $18.6 million in a Series A round of venture financing.

The company, led by CEO Steve Delity, secured the cash from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, TVM Capital, Quaker BioVentures, and VIMAC Milestone Medica Fund. Rapid Micro’s technology was commercialized last year, and the new capital will be used to expand in the U.S., Europe, and, ultimately, other parts of the world, Rapid Micro said.

Microbial invaders can spell big trouble for a biotech company if they sneak their way into the vats where protein drugs are nurtured, inside living cells. Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) is feeling the pain from a viral contamination, which has caused a shutdown of its Allston, MA, manufacturing plant and 6-8 week supply shortages of two of its top-selling protein drugs. Rapid Micro’s lead product, called the Growth Direct System, is supposed to greatly speed up the surveillance process by using digital imaging technology to replace detection by microbiology cultures judged by the human eye. This is a big potential market, as drugmakers and other companies perform 350 million tests a year to detect microbial contamination in their manufacturing processes, Rapid Micro has said.

“Large pharma, biologics, and personal care product manufacturers have been searching for a faster, more effective solution for quality control which meets their strict regulatory compliance requirements,” Delity said in a statement. “Our company will change the way microbial testing is performed by replacing old art with 21st century technology.”

Thomas Monath, a partner with Kleiner Perkins; Jens Eckstein, a general partner with TVM Capital; and Richard Kollender, a partner at Quaker BioVentures; will join the company’s board as part of the deal. Rapid Micro attracted the new round of investment because of its “combination of a unique, high-throughput technology addressing a large market demand, and an outstanding management team,” Monath said in a statement.

Eckstein said via e-mail that the company’s “technology is the only available solution that perfectly matches FDA regulations for microbial testing enabling non-destructive counting of microbial colonies. Or in other words manufacturing people do not have to introduce a new method into their processes but rather get a more sensitive and reliable technology.”

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