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Baebies Hauls In $13M For Newborn Screening Technology

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Baebies, a diagnostics developer aiming to make neonatal screening easier and more widely accessible, has raised $13 million in equity financing as the company moves forward developing and testing its technology.

The Durham, NC-based company said investors in the oversubscribed round included Rex Health Ventures; DUMAC, an investment group controlled by Duke University; Cunning Capital; Triad, LLC; and the Duke Angel Network. Baebies also received a $500,000 strategic growth loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Baebies is developing a screening platform that employs microfluidics, the science of working with tiny amounts of fluid, such as blood. The company’s platform consists of a benchtop analyzer and software that runs tests on samples in digital microfluidic cartridges. It’s the same technology that CEO Rich West worked with as the top executive of Advanced Liquid Logic, a Duke University microfluidics spinout that was acquired by San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) for $96 million in 2013.

The Baebies team includes Advanced Liquid Logic alums, such Baebies as co-founder and president Vamsee Pamula. The company licensed the microfluidics technology back from Illumina, which has an equity stake in Baebies. The license does not include any of Illumina’s gene sequencing technology, but Baebies received some equipment and contracts from Illumina.

Baebies says it aims to test for rare, inherited diseases in newborns. By finding these diseases earlier, the company says treatment can begin sooner and lives can be saved. The Baebies technology could also be seen as a companion diagnostic. The company says that its technology can test for rare diseases now addressed by newly developed therapies from pharmaceutical companies.

The company sees opportunity in providing testing capabilities in states that require newborn screening. Under North Carolina law, for example, all newborns are tested for 36 conditions and inherited diseases, including cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell disease, and amino acid disorders. In states that require newborn screening, the average number of tests is 43, West said at the CED Life Sciences Conference in Raleigh, NC, in March. The Baebies technology is still investigational and does not yet have FDA clearance. At the conference, West said the company’s technology was in pilot trials in three state public health laboratories.

In addition to screening for rare diseases in newborns in the Western world, Baebies sees its technology offering screening capabilities globally in emerging markets that do not yet have laboratory testing infrastructure. West said that Baebies products will make newborn screening accessible to the more than 100 million children born each year that do not have access to such screening.

“The extra ‘e’ [in Baebies] is for everyone,” West said. “We believe everyone deserves a healthy start.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Danny Cain under a Creative Commons license.