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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