Northern VCTs

Synthetic genes company raises £7.8m after new contract wins

Camena Bioscience, a Cambridge-based company which provides synthetic genes to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, has completed a £7.8m ($10m) Series A funding round led by Mercia Ventures. The new funding will be used to scale operations and continue development of its pioneering DNA synthesis platform, gSynth.

Camena is the first company to offer this unique and highly accurate enzyme-based DNA synthesis technology. It has already signed commercial agreements with leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies and secured a multi-million pound revenue stream.

Synthetic genes are widely used by researchers to understand the mechanisms of disease, and in the drug discovery process to combat them. However traditional DNA synthesis methods developed in the 1980s remain problematic in terms of cost, time and accuracy, particularly when creating long or complex sequences of genes. Camena’s technology overcomes these limitations by using a wholly novel enzymatic technology to accurately produce synthetic DNA.

Camena was co-founded by CEO Steve Harvey PhD, a leader in genomics research, and CSO Derek Stemple PhD, a world-renowned molecular biologist. Derek was previously a co-founder of TwistDX which was acquired by Alere (now a part of Abbott) in 2010.

Steve Harvey, CEO, commented: “We are delighted to have closed this latest round of funding with Mercia, which provides further validation of Camena’s approach. The ability to read, write and manipulate DNA is the foundation of the synthetic biology value chain, yet developments in DNA synthesis have not kept pace with DNA sequencing and editing capabilities. Camena’s gSynth platform is revolutionising the DNA synthesis market by unlocking access to genes and accelerating discovery pipelines.

“As the focus on sustainability and supply-chain security become more acute, Camena is leading the way with a green synthesis technology and is already well positioned to serve this burgeoning market. The invention of next-generation DNA sequencing technologies transformed our ability to ‘read’ DNA. Our goal is to enable our customers to ‘write’ DNA with the same confidence and ease.”

Mercia was investing from its Northern Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs). Lee Lindley from Mercia’s investment team, who has joined the Camena board, commented: “The market for synthetic genes is growing rapidly but a lot of demand is for complex genes which are extremely difficult to produce accurately. Camena can provide a solution that no other provider can deliver. The development of the company’s gSynth technology is a game changer that could unlock a much bigger global market. We’re really excited to be supporting Camena on its next stage of growth.”

Experienced biotechnology inventor and executive Aditya Rajagopal, founder of diagnostics company ChromaCode Inc and co-founder of Esperto Medical, has also joined the board.