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PASADENA, Calif., June 6, 2017 -- Episona Inc., an epigenetics data company focused on improving outcomes in reproductive health, announced today that it has raised an approximate $4 million seed round of financing to support the expansion of its first commercial product, Seed.
Launched in October 2016, Seed is the first test on the market to evaluate epigenetic changes on DNA to predict the risk for male factor infertility and poor embryo quality.
"Completing this financing round provides us with the capital required to grow the company and expand our commercial footprint across North America," said Episona CEO Alan Horsager, PhD. "We have been encouraged by the enthusiastic response from both patients and clinicians since we launched Seed. While still in the early stages of commercialization, Seed has demonstrated clear benefits, particularly with regards to providing information not generated by current semen analyses, such as the chances of sperm making a healthy embryo. We look forward to bringing Seed to more clinics and to helping patients make better informed decisions about their path to parenthood."
Participating in the Seed round were several members of the Pasadena Angels and other high-net worth individuals from Pasadena and San Francisco. The round included approximately $1.35 million in convertible notes. Episona intends to use the funds to increase sales and marketing and for further technology development. Seed is currently available in approximately two dozen fertility clinics in 12 states and Canada.
"Male factors contribute to at least half the cases of infertility; yet, nearly all the current testing has focused on women. While new technologies on the male side are making semen analysis easier and more convenient, they continue to rely on the age-old sperm test that hasn't evolved in decades," said Simon Harrison, Ph.D., the lead investor and a member of the Pasadena Angels. "Episona has opened a new genetic window on semen analysis which stands to radically change the way we evaluate the male's role in fertility, and I'm pleased to support the company."
Seed, a physician-ordered test for use at home or in a fertility clinic, evaluates the patient’s risk of male factor infertility and poor embryo development. Male factor risk can help identify the severity of a patient’s case, helping both the physician and patient understand whether to pursue less invasive procedures such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or move directly to in vitro fertilization (IVF). By analyzing sperm’s role in embryo development, Seed results can help identify problems that might occur with IVF and provide some answers if an IVF cycle fails or, in the case of seeking a donor, whether a male or female donor would be preferred.
Seed's novel approach is based on the science of epigenetics, which examines external or environmental factors such as aging, smoking, obesity, environmental exposure or even exercise that can cause changes to the layer on top of the DNA known as the epigenome. These modifications to the DNA alter how genes are expressed, or read, which in turn can impact how genes function. Using microarrays from Illumina Inc., Seed examines over 480,000 regions on sperm DNA for abnormal methylation at different gene sites important to fertility. A relative risk is then assigned to each abnormal location for either male factor infertility or poor embryo development.
About Episona Inc.
Episona is an epigenetics data company focused on improving reproductive health outcomes. The company's first commercial product, Seed, evaluates epigenetic changes on DNA to predict the risk of male factor fertility and embryo quality. Epigenetics is the study of the environmental and external modifications to DNA that alter gene expression without changing the DNA sequence. Episona intends to develop additional epigenetic-based tests for other conditions and diseases in which epigenetics may play a role, such neurodevelopmental disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and alcoholism. The company was founded in 2013 and is based in Pasadena, CA.