NextFab's resident companies are like our children. We love them all equally, but if you catch us fawning over our newest addition, it's just because newborns are unequivocally adorable. In this case, we're talking about Biomeme, a biotech startup poised to transform molecular diagnostics for applications ranging from food safety to STI testing. Totally cuddle-worthy.
To bring instant, accurate, and inexpensive diagnostics to points around the globe, Biomeme is democratizing qPCR, one of the stalwarts of modern biology. A friendly sounding acronym for quantitative polymerase chain reaction, qPCR allows for the identification of a particular sequence of DNA – say, a sequence specific to the malaria parasite – in a biological sample like blood or urine. No matter how small the amount of original malarial DNA present, qPCR will be able to find it and tell you how much is there. The catch is that instead of costing upwards of $10,000 and taking up as much space as a microwave, Biomeme's battery-powered machine runs about $1,000 and is roughly the size of a soda can.
But down to the nitty-gritty: "The first question we always get is: 'Oh cool! Does it work?'," says Biomeme cofounder Max Perelman via email. It does. Perelman says cofounder and lead biologist Jesse vanWestrienen has put together "high-quality data demonstrating Biomeme's sample prep and hardware performance versus gold standard lab equipment. When we show this data to scientists they are typically very impressed and excited to get their hands on a system. ... Honestly, we've been overwhelmed by the interest and are still combing through the mass of pre-order and information requests."
The company, now up to four full-time employees, wound up in Philly in April as part of the inaugural DreamIt Health accelerator. Three months after the program ended, Biomeme is still in Philly and now a part of NextFab's family. Working at NextFab "has been fantastic for the whole team," Perelman says. But being a biotech startup in Philly has both advantages and disadvantages. "We can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond," but "regional investors are typically more conservative than West Coast investors," he adds.
Biomeme just started its second round of fundraising on startup platform AngelList. "This round really picked up about a week ago when we put out our own terms based off of an extension of our previous convertible note. We're looking to raise another $1.2 million and have already gotten commitments in the last week or so for over a third of that," Perelman says, adding AngelList is currently featuring the company on its front page. "We're always fundraising ... but we hope to conclude this current round by about mid-December."
In the meantime, "[We] hope to get our first devices out to early adopters over the next few months, and continue to line up test development partnerships with various industry leaders." The initial testing focus? STIs. "First sales [will be] in South America, but [we're] starting with field testing at local Philadelphia healthcare institutions."