San Diego’s BioNano Genomics said today it has raised $10 million in venture financing to continue commercializing its long-strand gene sequencing technology in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
The startup, which licensed its technology from Princeton University a decade ago and moved to San Diego in 2011, says three of its existing investors, Domain Associates, Battelle Ventures, and Gund Investment Corp., participated in the unspecified round. CEO R. Erik Holmlin, who joined BioNano with the move to San Diego, declined to say by phone this afternoon how much the company has raised in total venture funding.
By using technology that unravels DNA into much longer strands than conventional sequencing technology, BioNano says its Irys System provides deeper insights into structural variations of the native genome. For example, some genes can be found in different locations on a chromosome and even in different chromosomes; the same gene can be found in multiple locations; and sometimes the gene sequence is inverted, Holmlin said.
“Our customers are using the Irys platform to study these changes,” Holmlin said. Determining the biological significance of various structural patterns could eventually lead to new drugs, new diagnostics, and potentially even new ways to genetically modify plants and other organisms, Holmlin said. Providing longer strands of DNA also makes it easier for scientists to assemble genomes more accurately.
The fully automated benchtop instrument uncoils long strands of DNA molecules and confines them in proprietary nanochannels, where they are prepared for high-resolution imaging. Imaging extremely long DNA molecules enables scientists to directly observe the structural variations.
The technology is used mostly by scientists in academic and institutional research laboratories, he added. In July, for example, BioNano said it had formed a strategic partnership with the New York Genome Center that included the purchase of an Irys System by the New York-based institute.
In BioNano’s statement, Holmlin says, “Our scientific achievements combined with this new financing pave the way to expand our commercialization efforts and the capabilities of Irys.”