David Esposito, president and CEO of Armune BioScience, says a recent transaction in which Wisconsin-based Exact Sciences acquired Armune's underlying technology is the final chapter of "a good Michigan story."
The transaction was announced at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco in December, but details of the transaction were not released.
Esposito says that Armune, headquartered in Kalamazoo with lab operations in Ann Arbor, has been a Michigan success story from its founding in 2008, when it launched at the University of Michigan (U-M). It was supported by angel groups based in the state, received financial help and mentorship through U-M's Biomedical Research Council, and expanded its Ann Arbor lab operations after landing $700,000 in seed capital in 2015. Additionally, a Michigan consulting firm, EMA Partners, helped broker the deal with Exact Sciences.
"The only blood-based non-PSA cancer testing in the world was supported by the Michigan life science community," Esposito says.
Armune was the maker of Apifiny, a blood test that helps doctors diagnose prostate cancer without relying on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.
Esposito notes that PSA tests give a lot of false positives, because high PSA levels can be related to normal changes from aging or other changes in the prostate that aren't cancer. In contrast, Apifiny uses biomarkers that indicate the immune system is responding to cancer.
The match with Exact Sciences was a good one, since both companies had a goal to tackle the most commonly-diagnosed cancers. Exact Sciences is on a mission to address the 10 deadliest cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers, and one of Exact Sciences' earliest products was Cologuard, a screening test for colon cancer.
Cologuard, however, is a fecal test, and Esposito says Armune's complementary technology will help Exact Sciences develop more blood-based tests for cancers.
With Exact Sciences having purchased the underlying technology, Armune BioScience still exists as a company name, but has ceased lab operations. Esposito says the Armune team is looking for the next great technology to build another company on.
"Most of our team is looking for another innovation to scale up and see how it goes," he says.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of David Esposito.