DVS Sciences, which invented and manufactures an instrument enabling biomarker analysis for scientific research, clinical trials and personalized medicine, has raised $14.6 million in series A financing. This is the largest venture-backed series A equity raised in Canada’s life sciences and medical technology fields in recent years, and is almost twice the average series A funding in the U.S., the company said.
DVS, located in Toronto, has developed CyTOF, a mass cytometer that addresses the need for improvement in the detection and characterization of cancer cells. By allowing a high number of disease markers to be detected at the same time, CyTOF can determine the signature of disease useful in guiding diagnosis and treatment, said Scott Tanner, president of DVS. CyTOF has been shown to analyze 34 biomarkers simultaneously in single human leukemia cells at a rate of 1,000 cells per second, he added.
“Raising venture capital in Canada is a challenge, especially in a life-sciences tools play,” said Tanner. “But the opportunity arose to work with a great group in the space and we were right for their targets.”
Several CyTOF instruments have been sold to a handful of large laboratories in Canada, the U.S. and Asia, but the funding will allow the company to go much further.
“We had tools in the marketplace; we had three customers,” said Tanner. “What we needed then was money to allow us to build our manufacturing facility and build a global sales force. This financing is the first step in our transformation from a research-based entity to a commercial company.”
DVS’ corporate headquarters are in Sunnyvale, but only five of its employees are based there. The remaining 24 are in Toronto. By year’s end, Tanner said he expects to have a work force of about 45, and next year he hopes to open a facility in Europe.
DVS is the recipient of significant investments from the University of Toronto, Genome Canada and the Ontario Genome Institute. The company is a spinoff from the University of Toronto and was an early recipient of seed funding from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), an independent, not-for-profit corporation established by the government of Ontario in 2005. OICR spun out two new biotech companies in May and has attracted solid venture capital and other investors to the technologies it has nurtured.
Tanner credits OICR in helping DVS come as far as it has. “They invested in the company so we could get to the next level, allowing us to put products in the market, and they offered us strong business mentorship, connecting me with people in the space and going with me to VC meetings, then offering constructive criticism. It was a huge amount of support.”
“DVS Sciences is a perfect example of our mission to generate faster translation of scientific research into cancer patient care, while supporting Ontario-based healthcare companies in a challenging economic environment,” Frank Stonebanks, OICR’s chief commercial officer, said in a press release.
OICR supports more than 1,400 investigators, clinician scientists, research staff and trainees located at its headquarters and in research institutes and academia in Ontario. It has research efforts underway in small molecules, biologics, stem cells, imaging, genomics, informatics and bio-computing, from early-stage research to phase II clinical trials.