Inside INdiana Business

Purdue startup closes seed funding round

CEO Diana Caldwell and Rajesh Ummadisetti of Amplified Sciences prepare for an experiment of the company's diagnostics test. (Purdue Research Foundation Photo/Liz Mogan)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A West Lafayette-based life sciences diagnostic startup has closed on a $1.8 million seed round of funding. Amplified Sciences, which is developing diagnostics designed to detect debilitating diseases more quickly, says the round was completed by an investment from Chicago-based OCA Ventures. Amplified Sciences Chief Executive Officer Diana Caldwell says the funding will help validate the company’s lead diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer and bring it closer to commercialization.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Caldwell said the company’s leadership team decided to increase the funding round’s maximum, particularly to bring on OCA as an investor.

“[OCA] brings way more than just capital. They’ve got a track record in life sciences, specifically a diagnostics portfolio and our partnership has been phenomenal, both through the discussions on consideration for them to come into the round, the due diligence and now joining us,” said Caldwell. “So, it really made sense. It was the right partner at the right time…enabling, I think, a lot of potential deliverables for us that are critical as we complete this technical and clinical validation of our lead assay.”

Amplified Sciences is based on technology invented by co-founder Dr. Jo Davisson, a professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Purdue University. The company is focused on earlier detection of some of the deadliest diseases.

“We know that with many of the most devastating diseases, whether it’s cancer or others, early detection is critical for good treatment and our lead assay is focused on earlier detection of pancreatic cancer,” Caldwell said. “So that’s where we’re focused first, but we’ve got a platform of chemistry that enables us to not just do this assay, but to hopefully do many more in the future that will all be focused on earlier detection.”

Caldwell says the funding will allow accelerate hiring efforts, including its recent hire of Dan Sheik as director of research and technology. Additionally, the funding will help the company with its clinical sample procurement as it moves toward toward clinical validation testing of the diagnostic technology.

Just over a year ago, Amplified Sciences won the Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice awards at the MedCity INVEST pitch competition. At the time, Caldwell said while the competition didn’t come with a monetary prize, coming out on top put the company in front of potential investors.

“Amplified Sciences appeared on our radar by winning the MedCity News diagnostics track pitch competition in 2020. After substantial diligence, we determined that the company’s novel technology was very promising and fit our investment theme in precision diagnostics,” Bob Saunders, general partner at OCA Ventures, said in a news release. “Of the 95-plus companies in our portfolio, 23 are in the health care sector. We believe Amplified Sciences complements our portfolio as it strives to detect pancreatic cancer sooner and help patients begin treatments earlier.”

Caldwell says the company hopes to reach commercialization of its pancreatic cancer diagnostic test by early 2023.

The seed funding round lasted more than a year, with additional investments from Purdue Ventures, Indiana University Ventures, the IU Angel Network, New York-based Golden Seeds, Houston Angel Network, Chemical Angel Network in California, and Gravity Ventures in Indianapolis.

The company is based in the Purdue Research Park and its diagnostic technology was developed at the College of Pharmacy at Purdue and licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

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