Circulating tumour DNA blood test developer Base Genomics has raised $11m to progress research out of University of Oxford.

University of Oxford has spun out UK-based DNA methylation measuring technology developer Base Genomics with $11m of seed capital co-led by its university venture fund Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) and multiple unnamed investors.

Founded in 2019, Base Genomics is working on a high-sensitivity epigenetic sequencing technology for diagnosing multiple subtypes of cancer.

The approach is sufficiently sensitive to measure DNA methylation, a chemical reaction within cytosine molecules that occurs when cancerous cells discharge DNA – known as circulating tumour DNA – into the blood.

Base’s technology, dubbed TET-assisted pyridine borane sequencing (Taps), would benefit researchers by avoiding use of bisulphite, a harsh chemical currently used to measure methylation that causes DNA to degrade severely.

Base claims Taps would also retain DNA sequences at higher fidelity, helping to lower costs and facilitate inspection of general genetic data together with methylation.

Taps was co-invented by Chunxiao Song, assistant professor at University of Oxford’s branch of international research initiative Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Song was aided by his post-doctoral research assistant Yibin Liu, and Base Genomics’ team also includes Anna Schuh, head of molecular diagnostics at University of Oxford.

The series A funding is set to advance Taps’s development with an initial focus on blood tests for early-stage cancer in addition to minimal residual disease.

Anna Schuh, who acts as the spinout’s chief medical officer, said: “In order to realise the potential of liquid biopsies for clinically meaningful diagnosis and monitoring, sensitive detection and precise quantification of circulating tumour DNA is paramount.

“Current approaches are not fit for purpose to achieve this, but Base Genomics has developed a game-changing technology which has the potential to make the sensitivity of liquid biopsies a problem of the past.”