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BioNano Raises $53M to Identify “Structural Variations” in Genome

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Corrected 11/24/14, 12 pm. See below.] San Diego-based BioNano Genomics, which has taken a fundamentally different approach to analyzing the genome, says today it has closed on $53 million in Series C financing to expand its commercialization efforts in North America, China, and Europe.

Legend Capital, a Beijing-based venture fund affiliated with Lenovo’s controlling shareholder, led the round with the Novartis Venture Fund. They were joined by two other new investors, Federated Kaufmann Fund and Monashee Investment Management, and existing investors Domain Associates, Battelle Ventures, and Gund Investment.

“We’re delighted to have a Chinese financial partner who can help us chart the waters there,” CEO Erik Holmlin said by phone. BioNano sold its high-throughput Irys System to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing just over a year ago, and Holmlin said Legend will be “an amazing partner as we begin expanding our footprint in China.”

At $53 million, the round amounts to one of the largest private financing deals in the U.S. life sciences sector this year. Including the round, the company has raised a total of roughly $92 million since BioNano moved to San Diego three years ago as part of a turnaround.

BioNano does not use the short-read, next-generation genome sequencing technology employed by San Diego-based Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) or ThermoFisher Scientific’s Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies business.

Erik Holmlin

Erik Holmlin

Conceptually speaking, next-gen sequencing is comparable to assembling a jigsaw puzzle with tens of millions or hundreds of millions of pieces. In constrast, Holmlin said, “We’re putting the jigsaw puzzle together with really large pieces.” BioNano’s Irys System does not produce the resolution that comes with sequencing every DNA base pair, but Holmlin said, “all the functional components are going to be in the right place.”

BioNano’s Irys System uncoils DNA molecules into long contiguous strands that are tagged with fluorescent enzymes at specific sites and drawn by an electric current into proprietary “nano channel” arrays, where they are aligned for high-resolution imaging. The resulting images of tagged DNA molecules are converted into digital data.

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