Bengaluru’s Mitra Biotech pulls in $27.4 million from Sequoia to fight cancer
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Bengaluru-based Mitra Biotech is pioneering a new kind of tumor-monitoring test for researchers. Photo credit: PR

Bengaluru-based Mitra Biotech is pioneering a new kind of tumor-monitoring test for researchers. Photo credit: PR

India’s biotech scene is growing with several startups and spinouts focused on new ways to diagnose and tackle cancer in the subcontinent

Backed with the strength of Sequoia Capital India, Sands Capital Ventures and RA Capital Management, Bengaluru-based Mitra Biotech has raked in a $27.4 million Series B funding round according to a weekend announcement. Their Series A also included government-backed fund KITVEN, the India Innovation Fund, Tata Capital and Accel Partners, the latter two joining the new round.

Mitra has come up with a new assay — i.e., a new kind of lab procedure and test — to predict tumor response to different anti-cancer treatments called CANScript. By replicating a patient’s tumor in a lab, it measures different responses to various drugs.

“Our company, investors as well as founders truly believe that demonstration of clinical utility is of paramount importance to position the company as a global leader in therapy selection in cancer and we are committed to continue to make investments in that front,” Mitra CEO and Co-founder Dr. Mallik Sundaram told the Times of India.

An October 2013 round led by Tata Capital was also called Series B, bringing in slightly less than $5 million. Their Tata-led Series A was worth about $2.2 million, according to Crunchbase.

Profiling and analyzing tumors is a massive industry, estimated to be worth $35.03 billion by 2018 by Markets and Markets. The oncology market in India itself could be worth just over $570 million by next year, according to a 2013 forecast by Frost & Sullivan.

Mitra Biotech one of many startups in India researching different cancers: Ganit Labs is mapping genomes related to oral cancer, Invictus Oncology is making platinum-based anti-cancer drug treatments, and Alndra Systems is using computer vision to diagnose very early cases of cervical cancer (there are many startups focused on cervical cancer in particular).

Mitra Biotech was founded in 2008 Dr. Mallik Sundaram, Prof. Charles Leland Cooney Ph.D., and Mr. Pradip K. Majumder Ph.D., who hailed from MIT and Harvard Medical School respectively. The company’s Bengaluru headquarters hosts 25 employees while its Boston location will expand from 10 to 20 by the end of the year. They plan to launch a European location, but did not specify when.

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