October 29, 2015

Startup Qvella gets $20M Series A to develop rapid pathogen detection test

It’s been more than a decade in the making, but Qvella is close to the holy grail of diagnostics–a compact, inexpensive pathogen analyzer that identifies the precise culprit in only 30 minutes. The idea is to enable better infection treatment faster as well as to minimize the overuse of antibiotics, which leads to the development of resistance.

The company has gotten a $20 million Series A round that was co-led by RA Capital Management and Whitecap Venture Partners. Hatteras Venture Partners and Sands Capital Ventures also participated. The financing is intended to advance the development of its first test to detect pathogens, in whole blood, although the technology can also be used with other bodily fluids, as well as to build out its staff.

“Solutions that enable patients to receive the right treatment quickly will fulfill a key unmet need in microbiology,” Parker Cassidy, Qvella board member and executive in residence at RA Capital Management, said in a statement. “Qvella has the perfect combination of technology, team, and potential to impact how antibiotics are delivered and developed.” Cassidy was previously the VP of Continuous Glucose Monitoring at Becton Dickinson ($BD).

The test is based on the startup’s Field Activated Sample Treatment (FAST) technology, which is a novel method of preparing the pathogen from the blood sample for subsequent amplification. FAST works via a tailored electric field that runs through a sample and releases the intercellular content. The field denatures and inactivates proteins such as nucleases and other contaminants that could inhibit the PCR amplification process, which subsequently occurs in a second chamber.The development of the technology for the test started in 2003 at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, with the establishment of Qvella following in 2009 and the in-licensing of the tech from UCLA shortly thereafter in 2010.

The process doesn’t require traditional extraction and purification methods that use reagents or mechanical processes–or the hours that these can require. All this plays out on an E-Card, which houses all the processes from cell isolation and concentration to the neutralization of enzymes within the cells to reverse transcriptase and PCR amplification to data analysis.

“Qvella is on an accelerated path to significantly change how bacteriology is handled in the healthcare system,” summed up Whitecap Partner Blaine Hobson in the announcement.

– here is the announcement

By Stacy Lawrence