PathoQuest aims to close USD 15m Series B by summer to commercialise COVID-19 clinical diagnostic – CEO

07 April 2020 - 02:17 pm UTC

by Ketaki Gokhale in Paris

PathoQuest, a French biotech developing a next-generation sequencing based test to analyze blood samples for hundreds of different pathogens, is aiming to close a USD 15m Series B round by this summer, CEO Jean-François Brepson told Mergermarket.


The funds will help it start implementing its iDTECT clinical diagnostic tool in some hospitals in the coming months, which detects COVID-19 among hundreds of other viruses and bacteria in blood samples, he said. The funds will also be used to grow its business in the quality control of biologic medicines and vaccines in the US and Europe, Brepson said.


The Paris-based company is seeking investors, either strategics or VCs, experienced in healthcare, diagnostics and infectious diseases, he said.


PathoQuest applies next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to microbiology testing in its iDTECT test. The test can identify directly and simultaneously from a blood sample more than 1,600 species of pathogens, counting 1,000 bacteria and 600 viruses - including COVID-19, through DNA and RNA sequences, Brepson said. 


The technology could prove valuable to clinicians treating and following patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. The test wouldn’t replace PCR testing which can provide basic screening at a low cost for COVID-19, but would rather complement it, he added. It would provide clinicians with complementary information on samples from COVID-19 patients, including information on the strain of the virus, mutations in the virus and co-infections, Brepson said.


Having PathoQuest’s test in large hospitals would enable clinicians to get alerted on viral outbreaks very early on and would have big implications for the spread of diseases like COVID-19 and other future pandemics, Brepson said.


The company expects the iDTECT test to be implemented in hospitals in Paris and Lyon in France, and in Bonn, Germany. It also has collaboration agreements in place with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Mayo Clinic in the US, but needs more resources to expand there, Brepson said.


Another unit of PathoQuest provides quality control (QC) services for biologic medicines and vaccines, he said. The unit generates “several million” euros in revenue and is growing rapidly, Brepson said, declining to share specific numbers.


PathoQuest has 40 customers for this service, including French biotech Transgene, he said. A third of the customers are US-based, he added. The potential of this business is substantial, Brepson said, because metagenomic QC testing could for example replace animal testing for viral safety in the drug development process.


To date, PathoQuest has raised EUR 19.8m in funding from investors including Switzerland’s investiereNorgine VenturesKurma PartnersIdinvest Partners and Charles River Labs. Its current investors will participate in the Series B, Brepson said.


PathoQuest’s most direct competitor is California-based Karius, he said. The company raised a USD 165m Series B round last month, as reported. Karius uses a different technology, focused on analyzing cell-free DNA, that Brepson said “is inferior to what we do from a technological standpoint.”


PathoQuest’s technology has its roots at France’s Institut Pasteur. It was founded in 2010 by Marc Eloit, head of the Pathogen Discovery Laboratory at the institute.


It is one of the few genomics companies fully dedicated to infectious disease, Brepson said. A lot of the focus in genomics has been on oncology and rare diseases, he added. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that “infectious diseases are just as critical,” he said.


“It is the right time for investors to look at us and join us, to enable what we have developed to be used on a daily basis.”


The company aims to provide its investors with an exit in approximately five years, Brepson said. PathoQuest could be of interest to NGS manufacturing companies, like Illumina or Thermo Fisher, he said, as they look to enter the microbiology space.


The company has 32 employees.