InDi, Lee Hood’s Vision for Spotting Cancer in Blood, Snags $10M

Biotech pioneer Leroy Hood has spent years outlining a vision of finding networks of proteins in the blood that can offer an early warning sign of cancer on the move. Now the startup that Hood and Caltech’s Jim Heath founded to pursue that idea, Seattle-based Integrated Diagnostics, has raised another $10 million to turn it into a commercial reality in the next year.

Integrated Diagnostics, or just InDi for short, is announcing today it has pulled in the third and final $10 million segment of its $30 million Series A venture financing from October 2009. InterWest Partners, The Wellcome Trust, and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg all contributed to this next phase of development. The company, after filling out its executive team with a new chief financial officer and chief business officer, is plowing ahead with a plan to roll out its first commercial product within the next 13 months, says CEO Al Luderer.

If InDi can hit that next goal, and persuade insurers to start paying for this new kind of diagnostic test, then it will be in position to attempt an IPO shortly thereafter, Luderer says.

“This is the realization of Lee Hood’s vision,” Luderer says. “We’re in great shape for the year ahead.”

Al Luderer, CEO of Integrated Diagnostics

The vision at InDi is to create a new class of diagnostic tests that can spot specific proteins that can be shown to be early warning signs of disease. Hood has said he hopes this could shake up the healthcare system by making it possible for doctors to detect diseases much earlier than they can be caught today, giving physicians more information before they make hard decisions about treatment.

InDi has pursued this opportunity in lung cancer first. This is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., and a tough malignancy to diagnose and treat in the early stages. An estimated 3.3 million people each year end up having a single nodule in the lungs show up on a chest X-ray or CT scan, which raises the question about whether it’s cancer. About 2 million of those scans come from high-risk populations like smokers or the elderly, while the rest come from incidental findings, Luderer says. If the lesion is large, doctors go ahead and perform a biopsy to analyze the tissue for malignancy.

But if it’s small—generally two centimeters or less in diameter—the lesion presents a conundrum, Luderer says. Chances are it is benign, and not really worth the invasiveness of a biopsy. So those patients tend to go on “watchful waiting,” in which doctors will periodically follow up with imaging scans. But sometimes those small nodes can be … Next Page »

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  • R. Jones

    What ever happened to Leroy Hoods Homestead? Why didn’t Homestead graduate and why will InDi be successful?

    According the the Accelerator 2005 press release on Homestead:

    “Fully understanding complex diseases requires systems approaches that integrate biology, technology, computation and medicine,” stated Leroy Hood, ISB president. “Applying cutting edge ideas and techniques, with tools developed at ISB, we are now able to delineate between varying states of health and disease. Identifying genes and proteins that mark the earliest stages of disease sets the stage for developing advanced diagnostics that will enable intervention early in the disease process.”

    In 2009 Xconomy wrote about InDi and the relationship to Homestead. The article mentioned that Homestead did not “graduate” from Accelerator with further venture rounds. Then Carl Weisman was quoted, “Integrative Diagnostics, or InDi, is partially based upon technology that was developed at Homestead Clinical Corp. while within Accelerator, or was the subject of an option agreement between Homestead and Caltech. So this is our fourth graduate.”

    When at first you don’t succeed, redefine success. Both companies hire Mass Spec operators and tell them to find specific proteins. Homestead only hired one and he was part time. InDi has 30 employees but we don’t know what area they work in. Business development? Without any publications or details this looks like Homestead with more money. Money Accelerator chose not to give them.