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High Speed Genetics Tech Start-Up Raises $15M

Digital DNA

(Pete Linforth, Pixabay.

25 May 2022. A start-up enterprise developing a high-performance genomic screening and detection technology is raising $15 million in early financing. Pleno Inc., a two year-old business in San Diego, is creating a process it says combines a number of biological analytics into a single rapid workflow for medical applications and research.

Pleno seeks to simplify biological measurements for medical screening and diagnostics to make detection of disease faster, with more tests covering a wider range of conditions than currently performed from a single sample.  The company says its technology, called hypercoding, adapts signal processing techniques from the telecommunications industry for simultaneous measurement and analysis of biological indicators. According to IEEE, signal processing is a process derived from electrical engineering that models and analyzes data representing a range of physical events across multiple disciplines.

In its hypercoding technology, Pleno says those disciplines cover genomics and related processes including DNA, RNA, protein content, and methylation, a mechanism for testing responses of DNA when methyl group compounds are added, particularly gene functioning and expression. As reported by Science & Enterprise in June 2020, a spin-off company from University of Oxford in the U.K. is adapting DNA methylation to develop a stable and sensitive liquid biopsy for detecting multiple types of cancer in their early stages.

“Enable the simultaneous and rapid detection of more targets …”

Pleno says its hypercoding technology can detect up to 10,000 targets per sample, and process up to 10,000 samples per day with a simple low-cost workflow, but offers no data to substantiate those claims. In addition, the company says its techniques are the equivalent of 1,000 times the multiplex target capacity of polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests, such as those for detecting SARS-CoV-2 viruses in nasal swabs, and 100 times the sample processing throughput of next-generation or high-throughput genomic sequencing.

“The Covid-19 pandemic,” says Pieter van Rooyen, founder and CEO of Pleno Inc. in a company statement released through BusinessWire, “demonstrated the limitations of our current biological research and testing paradigms in terms of capability, scalability, throughput, and cost.” Van Rooyen adds, “Our technology was born from the desire to enable the simultaneous and rapid detection of more targets, from more samples at a dramatically lower cost ….”

Pleno Inc. is raising $15 million in advance of its first full venture funding round, led by life science investors Medical Excellence Capital in New York and Alexandria Venture Investments in Pasadena, California. Among the company’s investors is biotechnology entrepreneur Gregory Lucier, who will chair Pleno’s board of directors. “This isn’t an incremental innovation,” notes Lucier, “it’s a game changer for biomedical research and the widespread clinical adoption of applications like liquid biopsies.”

The company is currently incubating at EvoNexus, a not-for-profit technology incubator in San Diego. Pleno says it plans to apply the new funding to further develop its hypercoding technology as well as hire additional staff.

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