The financing round was led by VentureSouth and included LabCorp, which, via its drug development business Covance, is currently working with Kiyatec to develop preclinical models. This includes cancer spheroids and patient-derived xenografts to support early drug development, said Steve Anderson, PhD, chief scientific officer, Covance.
“These model systems can also be used when appropriate for patient management,” Anderson explained, noting that the companies have already started a joint project supporting a Covance client with its development needs.
Anderson said the LabCorp Venture Fund invests in early-stage private companies “operating in current or strategically adjacent spaces and developing novel solutions to important problems in health and health care.”
Anderson noted LabCorp’s commitment to precision medicine, calling the Kiyatec investment “a good fit with this commitment as well as our investment focus.”
In line with this, LabCorp last month acquired Envigo’s nonclinical research services business for $485m, and divested its research products business, in a deal that the company said will simply and focus Covance’s nonclinical research business model.
3D-PREDICT: ‘This is very different from past attempts’
Kiyatec’s 3D cell culture technology has the potential to be deployed across LabCorp and Covance, said Matt Gevaert, CEO of Kiyatec, “so they are a great fit as we try to fully realize the potential of our technology.”
The funds will help support Kiyatec’s ongoing clinical study, 3D-PREDICT, which is examining the ability of the company’s proprietary assay to predict patient-specific responses to cancer therapies for solid tumors.
“We are one of only very few that have shown, and will continue to show, in prospective clinical studies, direct correlation between our test results and patient-matched actual clinical outcomes,” Gevaert told us.
Beyond the clinical trial, the funds also will be used to fund some commercial readiness expenses and operations, he added.
Based in Greenville, SC, the company is creating the data Gevaert said is “needed to drive market adoptions and be responsive to reasonable clinician expectations to demonstrate technology performance.”
The 3D-PREDICT study is a fully prospective, multi-institutional effort, and first began enrolling patients in 2018. In the first quarter of 2019, three clinical sites have been added to the study and the company expects to add additional sites later this year.
From a clinical testing perspective, Gevaert said there aren’t many other similar solutions in the market.
“This is very different from past attempts, shorthanded as ‘2D cell culture’ approaches,” he said, adding that previous efforts produced insufficient clinical correlations – due to inadequate “biological fidelity” to patient biology – and thus failed to gain widespread adoption.
From a preclinical testing perspective, Gevaert said there are more 3D solutions in the market; however, without demonstrating a direct correlation to patient biology, quantifying value is difficult, he added.
“Just because it’s 3D doesn’t mean its automatically better,” explained Gevaert, “3D is a ‘means to the end’ where the ‘end’ is more predictive models due to higher fidelity to patient biology and that is sometimes lost.”