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Wyss Institute Spinout NuProbe Closes $11M Series A Round

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Molecular diagnostics startup NuProbe announced today that it has closed an $11 million Series A financing round.

The round was co-led by Sequoia China and Serica Partners, and included WuXi AppTec Corporate Ventures.

NuProbe, a spinout of Harvard's Wyss Institute, said it would use the money to hire additional staff at its offices in Massachusetts and China. The firm also plans to continue developing its toehold hybridization probes — which enable near-optimal single-base discrimination across temperature, salt, and concentration conditions — for qPCR and next-generation sequencing-based mutation detection.

"Our technology provides uniquely high sensitivity and multiplexing capability for non-invasive cell-free DNA detection in blood," NuProbe Cofounder and Rice University researcher David Yu Zhang said in a statement. "We are optimistic about the value of our technology in optimizing treatment, monitoring disease, screening for early stages of disease, and other applications of genomics as applied to human health."

According to the Wyss Institute, NuProbe was spun out in order to commercialize the institute's DNA nanotechnology-based variant-detecting method as a fast, low-cost, and multiplexed molecular diagnostic for different diseases including cancer and infectious diseases. Harvard's Office of Technology Development and NuProbe have signed a licensing agreement for the technology, with the aim of developing clinical assays capable of simultaneously detecting multiple rare disease-related DNA variants in bodily fluids.

Wyss Faculty Member and NuProbe Cofounder Peng Yin codeveloped toehold probes with Zhang to detect DNA and RNA with high sequence selectivity and specificity with high temperature robustness to enable the identification of multiple variants. Toehold probes contain two strands of DNA that are hybridized to each other due to the complementarity of their nucleotide sequences. One, called the "probe strand" is also complementary to a target sequence, while the second "protector strand" copies part of the target DNA, according to the Wyss. The probe strand is specifically bound to its genomic target DNA to allow for its detection, and the protector strand is released, or the reverse happens. This leads to a reaction that is highly sensitive to perturbations.

"Toehold probes add new and powerful DNA nanotechnology-driven capabilities to both polymerase chain reaction and next-generation sequencing-based methods. Their specificity and robustness may enable clinical research labs to specifically home in on multiple rare genetic variants in a single test with fast turnaround, and in a much more cost-effective way," Yin said in a statement.

Victor Shi, former founding president of Qiagen Asia Pacific and a former faculty member at National University of Singapore School of Medicine, is also a cofounder of and investor in NuProbe.