Yale spin-off to offer testing for a genetic marker associated with ovarian cancer
Rocky Hill, Conn., July 1, 2010 – Connecticut Innovations (CI), the state’s quasi-public authority responsible for technology investing and innovation development, today announced that it has made an investment of $1 million in MiraDx Inc. (MiraDx) of New Haven, Conn., through its Eli Whitney Fund. This investment is part of a $4 million Series A round also involving individual investors.
MiraDx is applying microRNA (miRNA) discoveries licensed from Yale University to develop gene-based laboratory tests that will provide individualized information on the likelihood of disease occurrence and response to certain types of therapy. MiRNAs are small genetic regulators that control cell development, cell cycle, cell differentiation and cell death; they have also been linked to certain cancers and other disease states. The goal of MiraDx is to provide information that can help clinicians better understand cancer in order to better serve their patients, leading to earlier diagnoses, better management and, ultimately, to higher cure rates. MiraDx has established its own CLIA-certified lab and will conduct diagnostic testing on behalf of its clients, which will include physicians, hospitals and medical centers.
Initially, the company will launch the PreOvar test, a test that will screen a woman for the KRAS-variant, a genetic marker associated with ovarian cancer risk. Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. Using patient DNA samples from saliva or blood, PreOvar will test for the presence of the KRAS-variant, which is found in 25-30% of women diagnosed with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer. Additionally, over 60% of women with ovarian cancer from hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) families who are negative for other known markers of ovarian cancer risk have been found to carry the KRAS-variant.
“There is a real need for tools that can help women who have a family history of ovarian cancer to better understand their risk,” said Stephen Miller, president of Mira Dx. “We are pleased to launch the PreOvar test, which can now be ordered by gynecologic oncologists and other clinicians.” Miller continued, “We hope that PreOvar will provide valuable information for the tens of thousands of women each year who grapple with the challenges of hereditary ovarian cancer.”
MiraDx is led by a strong team including founders who are pioneers in the field of miRNAs: Frank J. Slack, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, and Joanne B. Weidhaas, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology at Yale University, chief of the Breast Cancer Radiation Service at Yale Cancer Center, and section chief of Breast Cancer at the Yale Cancer Center. The team also includes President Stephen Miller, who has 21 years of experience in the health care field, and Chief Operating Officer Barbara Mignogna Korus, with broad management experience in the technology and investment fields.
“In the past year, we have invested in several companies that are licensing technology from Yale,” Governor M. Jodi Rell stated. “MiraDx is one of those companies. We are proud to provide this company with the early-stage support it needs to thrive and bring these home-grown technologies into the marketplace.”
“We are excited to support the development and introduction of MiraDx’s new miRNA-based diagnostic tests,” said Peter Longo, president and executive director of CI. “They will offer valuable information to physicians and are a significant step toward personalized medicine. Our hope is that these tests will help save the lives of many women by aiding in earlier diagnoses and better management of ovarian cancer.”
Dave Wurzer, CI managing director of investments, will represent CI on MiraDx’s board of directors.
About Connecticut Innovations Inc. Connecticut Innovations (CI) is a quasi-public organization dedicated to driving a vibrant, entrepreneurial, technology-based economy in Connecticut. CI stimulates high-tech growth by investing in: early-stage Connecticut technology companies; university/industry research collaborations; technology transfer; and, clean energy initiatives through the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. CI also fosters collaboration among government, business, nonprofit and academic organizations to advance technology growth and promotes public policies consistent with CI’s mission. For more information on CI, please visit www.ctinnovations.com.
About MiraDx Inc. Mira Dx is a genomics company founded on pioneering research from Yale University around microRNA and is dedicated to the development and commericalization of novel microRNA-based tests for cancer risk and companion diagnostics. For more information on Mira Dx, please visit www.miradx.com.