February 24, 2020 / 11:01 AM / a month ago

SoftBank leads $165 mln capital boost for liquid biopsy firm Karius

Feb 24 (Reuters) - SoftBank’s second Vision Fund has led a new $165 million funding round in California-based Karius, which markets a test that can quickly detect hard to diagnose infections through a simple taking of blood, the start-up said on Monday.

Karius’ test, which is already being used in more than 100 U.S. hospitals, turns liquid biopsy technology previously used chiefly to measure the progress of cancers to the detection of over 1,000 pathogens, including bacteria and fungi.

The funding round values the company at over $700 million, according to a filing made by the company to the state of Delaware, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. Karius said it was not disclosing valuation details at this time.

Dr. Bill Muller at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago said his hospital typically uses the test on patients who are at the most risk of infections that are difficult to diagnose using conventional methods. He estimates that his hospital typically averages five-10 orders of the test per month.

The company said the list price for the test was $2,000 for hospitals.

The deal is relatively small by the standards of Softbank and its giant investment arm, but adds to a growing list of healthcare investments that include drugmaker Roivant Sciences and Vir Biotechnology Inc, an infectious-disease focused drug developer that made its public debut last year.

“Softbank’s healthcare team is very experienced and we actually learnt a lot through the diligence process through their questions,” Karius Chief Executive Officer Mickey Kertesz told Reuters.

“I anticipate they (Softbank’s healthcare team) will add a lot of value beyond the financial resources we have secured.”

The funding comes at a time of investor scrutiny into Softbank’s investments.

The Japanese technology giant earlier this month reported a second straight quarter of losses at its first Vision Fund, and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son has said he has been forced to scale back the second fund.

With the Series B funding, which also included participation from General Catalyst, HBM and existing investors Khosla Ventures and LightSpeed Venture Partners, Karius hopes to expand the commercial outreach of the test.

Through the funding, the company will also focus on further clinical testing to build on previous studies of the Karius test, Kertesz said. (Reporting by Manas Mishra and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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