Gene Security Network, Now Natera, Adds $20M For Prenatal Tests

1/6/12Follow @xconomy

A little more than 4 million children are born in the U.S. every year, and quite a few of those prospective parents are curious about potential genetic defects in their offspring. And so a group of investors are betting $20 million today that Redwood City, CA-based Gene Security Network is going to make some serious money from a variety of prenatal genetic tests for those curious parents.

Gene Security Network, which is being renamed Natera, is announcing today it has raised $20 million in a Series D financing led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Claremont Creek Ventures and Sequoia Capital. The company, founded in 2004, has now raised a combined $42 million of venture capital in its four publicly announced financing rounds. Founders Fund, the West Coast’s largest in vitro fertilization center (Huntington Reproductive Center), and Google vice president Marissa Mayer have all participated in prior investment rounds in the company.

The company currently sells a test that examines the genetic profile of embryos that are candidates for implantation in a woman’s uterus through in vitro fertilization. The new investment will help Natera commercialize a noninvasive test that looks for Down Syndrome, as well as other genetic conditions. Several companies, including San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) have been working for years on a test to detect chromosomal abnormalities like Down by looking at a drop of maternal blood, rather than using accurate but more invasive techniques like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Natera said today it is preparing to introduce the new commercial test in 2012.

Natera’s claim is that its test is less invasive than the other techniques, can be performed in the first trimester of fetal development, and approaches the accuracy of amniocentesis, as the company described in a story last month by Bloomberg News. The company generated $4 million in revenue in 2010, tripled that in 2011, and expects to triple that again to about $36 million in 2012, according to the Bloomberg report.

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