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28 January, 2016 - 13:15 By Tony Quested

Woodford wades into $45m funding for Cambridge cancer pioneer

Michael Stocum of Inivata

Woodford Patient Capital Trust is backing a Cambridge UK startup pioneering liquid biopsies to improve cancer treatment and outcomes.

Globally renowned for backing life science winners, Woodford has waded into a $45 million Series A round for Inivata whose technology is based on trailblazing research from the Rosenfeld Lab at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK-CI).

Existing investors Imperial Innovations, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Johnson & Johnson Innovation all participated in the round along with newcomer Woodford.

Inivata, a clinical cancer genomics company, is employing the precision of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) analysis to improve personalised healthcare in oncology. The new funds will be used to accelerate clinical studies to validate Inivata’s technology platform based on enhanced TAm-Seq, and commercialise the company’s first products.

Inivata’s platform will initially be applied across a spectrum of solid tumours – including lung, breast and colon cancer – to demonstrate the integration of genomic information with clinically actionable decision-making, defining a personalised approach to cancer care.

Inivata CEO Michael Stocum (above) said: “Since our seed funding 16 months ago, the market has seen an explosion of interest and funding in liquid biopsy research. With our early presence in Cambridge UK and our imminent presence in the US, we are well-placed to be forerunners in the practical application of liquid biopsy for clinical oncologists.

“We are grateful to our existing investors for their continued strong support of Inivata and very pleased to welcome Woodford Patient Capital Trust to augment what is already a very strong investor base. Our mission is to partner with oncologists to revolutionise cancer treatments and outcomes for their patients – part of a new landscape of personalised healthcare.”

Inivata’s proprietary technology represents a new generation of non-invasive molecular profiling from a simple blood draw that is poised to impact the major aspects of a patient’s care including diagnosis, prognosis, treatment stratification and response monitoring.

The test, which allows precise analysis of cancer-related mutations present in ctDNA, is designed to provide oncologists with clinically actionable genomic information to guide therapy selection, monitor treatment progress and, importantly, detect new mutations as they emerge.

The genomic analysis of ctDNA has the potential to transform cancer care and resolve many of the limitations inherent in current tissue-based testing protocols that are highly invasive and are not amenable to serial monitoring in routine practice. Inivata demonstrated putative clinical utility of enhanced TAm-Seq through published clinical work presented at multiple cancer conferences last autumn.

Robert Tansley of Cambridge Innovation Capital said: “We have been impressed with the results thus far from Inivata’s initial clinical studies that highlight the sensitivity and accuracy of the company’s ctDNA platform.

“Inivata is already working with a strong network of clinicians in both Europe and the United States and this new funding will allow the company to accelerate its clinical validation and commercialisation efforts.”

The £800m Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT) was launched in April 2015 by Woodford Investment Management which has more than £14 billion of assets under management.

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