Last week, Belgium start-up Multiplicom received a $260,000 grant from the Flemish Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology to develop a genetic test that uses blood samples from the pregnant woman to detect fetal abnormalities, specifically chromosome copy number variations that cause disorders like Down's syndrome.
Multiplicom is latest of several companies to focus on these sort of prenatal genetic tests that rely on fetal DNA in maternal blood. With three similar tests currently on the market by the California-based companies Sequenom, Verinata, and Arisosa, and two other kits completing trials from Natera and German-based LifeCodexx, Multiplicom is starting off quite late in the race. Also, the fact that four of the current companies in this market are already involved in patent battles also does not bode well for Multiplicom.
Multiplicom organized just over a year ago after raising approximately $2.5 million in venture funding. The company is based on multiplex PCR technology developed in the Jurgen Del-Favero Lab at the University of Antwerp. They already have some kits available for the basic research market, but have no approved diagnostic assays.