Business / Corporate

Quantum wins $20.5 million funding to build a rapid DNA sequencer

by Shigeru Sato

Bloomberg

Quantum Biosystems Inc., an Osaka-based company developing a faster genome sequencer, has raised ¥2.4 billion in venture-capital funding from firms including Jafco Co., people with knowledge of the matter said.

The investors also include state-backed Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, Mizuho Capital Co., University of Tokyo Edge Capital Co. and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital Co., the people said, asking not to be identified before a public announcement.

Quantum is developing so-called fourth-generation sequencing equipment to compete with existing offerings from Roche Holding AG and Illumina Inc. A machine that can sequence human DNA in a few hours for $1,000 could soon be available, compared with the first human genome which was sequenced in 2003 after 13 years of work at a cost of $3 billion, the McKinsey Global Institute wrote in a May 2013 report.

“Faster and cheaper DNA sequencing is vital to help produce the best cancer drugs for each individual,” Chief Executive Officer Toshihiko Honkura said in a Jan. 19 interview. “It would be able to sequence DNA of bacteria in soil, helping farmers identify the crop types and ways of farming best suited for each plot of the farmlands.”

Quantum plans to set up a Silicon Valley research team to supplement its Osaka lab ahead of proposed commercialization of the device in 2017, said Honkura, 40. The company is planning an initial public offering in the U.S. or Japan a year later, he said.

Before founding Quantum in 2013, Honkura worked at Innovation Network after a six-year stint as a McKinsey & Co. consultant, he said. He has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Tokyo and a master’s of business administration from Columbia University.

Quantum raised ¥450 million in February 2014 from Jafco, Mizuho Capital and University of Tokyo Edge Capital, according to a company statement at the time. Spokesmen for Quantum, Mizuho Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Jafco, University of Tokyo Edge Capital and Innovation Network declined to comment.

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