Cancer, Venture

Promising to match more NSCLC patient with targeted drugs, Cambridge spinout Inivata readies US launch of liquid biopsy

This has been a big month for Inivata, the liquid biopsy company spun out from Cancer Research UK and Cambridge University. After securing Medicare coverage for its first blood test — used to profile advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients — it has officially closed a $52.6 million (£39.8 million) Series B to fund a commercial rollout.

Clive Morris

While advances in targeted therapy have dramatically expanded treatment options for NSCLC patients — from checkpoints to tyrosine kinase inhibitors to novel RET inhibitors — it is often difficult to test patients for all FDA-approved drugs using the traditional tissue biopsy, Inivata CEO Clive Morris tells me. Sometimes the patients simply don’t have enough tissue to draw from; other times there are medical reasons standing in the way.

“So when you think about that, with billions in R&D dollars spent, the time spent to get those things all the way through FDA, and actually what they are saying is more than 90% of patients are not profiled for all of the drugs that are available,” the AstraZeneca vet said, referring to a 2017 paper studying genomic profiling of the disease in community settings.

Inivata’s InVisionFirst test, in contrast, is designed to hunt down “tiny, tiny little pieces of” circulating tumor DNA in blood and look for all types of genetic alterations, from insertions, deletions and single nucleotide variations to gene fusions and translocations.

That’s the pitch it will be taking to oncologists across the US with a growing team of sales, marketing, medical education and payer liaison personnel — in a market that already has some entrenched tissue testers, including Roche’s Foundation Medicine.

Meanwhile, some of the funds will go toward R&D in Cambridge, UK, where it’s delving into new assays and cooking up clinical programs for different tumor types in earlier stages. Morris sees a wide range of potential applications for Inivata next-generation sequencing tech outside of the initial profiling, including monitoring of patients and detection of responses/resistance to drugs.

Coming from new investor RT Ventures and old supporters Woodford Patient Capital Trust, IP Group, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, the Series B more than doubled Inivata’s earlier haul from a “small-ish seed round” and a Series A on which the company was set up. That included labs in both North Carolina and Cambridge. This final close followed an initial tranche of cash handed over last August.

So what will be next for the InVision platform? Morris prefers to stay silent on that score, but volunteered that as a small company of fewer than 80, they will be looking for partners to pursue the whole portfolio of indications.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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