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NanoString Grabs $20M From GE, Former Genzyme CEO to Pursue Molecular Diagnostics

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forced its way through the headwinds and is “100 percent in line” with its revenue plan for 2011 through the first three quarters of the year. The company’s instrument debuted in with a price tag of $235,000, and NanoString has chosen to boost the machine’s capability while holding the line on price, Gray has said.

The company plans to use the new investment capital to expand its sales force, and continue to gain market share in the academic and industrial customer segments, Gray says. NanoString has about 90 employees now, and plans to grow its headcount “judiciously,” Gray says. The company will also invest some of the cash in clinical studies to develop its instrument for diagnostic purposes, including research designed to show the value of the PAM50 signature, which looks at 50 genes that are thought to provide useful information for doctors treating breast cancer. Once the PAM50 test is established, the NanoString tool should be useful for many other different kinds of gene signatures for different cancers, Gray says.

“Our customers continue to bring us information from their discoveries of new biomarkers, and ask us how we can work together to develop new diagnostics,” Gray says.

Pharmaceutical companies tend to be slow adopters of new technologies like this compared with academic labs, but NanoString has doubled its base of industry customers in the past year, Gray says.

Like anything else in biology, it will take a long time, study by study, to prove whether these gene signatures are providing the valuable information researchers expect. And the FDA will have to scrutinize the data, test by test, and say whether it’s good enough for physicians to rely on for diagnostic purposes. The first diagnostic filing in particular will be the most extensive, because the agency will need to get familiar with the hardware, as well as the gene signature.

None of that seems to deter Gray. “The only limit to how quickly we can grow and how big we can be is the speed at which we can—in a quality way—identify gene signatures of clinical utility and get them properly validated as diagnostic products. The only limit I see on the life sciences tools side is the number of people with ambition and resources to pursue science with nCounter.”

“I think we are skating to where the puck is going. I’m very optimistic.”

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