Selah Genomics, provider of advanced molecular and genomic diagnostic services, inked a deal this week that makes it one of the major exits in the Upstate’s biotech industry. UK-based point-of-care diagnostics firm EKF Diagnostics will acquire Selah for $40 million initially through the issue of new EKF shares and an additional deferred consideration of up to $35 million, valuing Selah at about $75 million.
Chairman and CEO Michael Bolick said the company had not planned to sell, but it was the right move and brings the advantage of growing with a publicly traded and better capitalize parent company. “We were excited about running on our steam for a while, but had the responsibility to look at [the offer’s] potential for investors and to listen.”
Selah’s management team will be retained as is and will report to the EKF group. The relationship with EKF will allow Selah to hire a national sales force to sell PrecisionPath technology, which assesses biomarkers in tumors. Bolick said the company will be hiring primarily out of the Upstate.
“The nice thing about life science is that we have a hard need for scientists, but also hire folks from technical schools to run machines,” Bolick said. He said the biotechnology training program at Greenville Technical College is “really impressive” and will be a source for building the technical staff that can fulfill tasks such as building hundreds of sample selection kits Selah uses to provide its services.
The plan is for the Selah Genomics brand to remain intact, Bolick said. That brand has gained a significant amount of cachet since the company was founded in January 2013. It was one of the first companies in the nation to move into next-generation sequencing, bringing important clinical trials to Greenville. By November 2013, the Greenville Health System Institute for Translational Oncology Research started using Selah’s PrecisionPath technology to molecularly profile tissue from individual cancer patients.
Bolick said the company has seen significant revenue growth related to direct metabolism testing. A person’s ability to metabolize a drug depends on genes, and metabolism testing allows health care practitioners to know which patients respond to which drugs. “That book of business has grown for us significantly and we expect that to continue to grow,” said Bolick.
The company also recently completed an agreement with Barcelona, Spain-based pharmaceutical company Ferrer Company focusing on corporate wellness programs using tests to more accurately identify individuals incorrectly assessed as having a low risk of heart disease when genetic markers show they are in fact high-risk.
Bolick said South Carolina’s bioscience companies are now starting to see the benefit of investments made in growing the industry over the last several years as several companies are being pursued for acquisition. A decade ago there were no concerted resources for supporting such companies, but since then organizations such as the Upstate Carolina Angel Network and SC Launch have helped spur growth.
“We were one of the first companies that SC Launch invested in, in serial [rounds], and now we’re making the return,” Bolick said. Early and especially mid-stage support from homegrown investors leads to the big exits, he said. “That’s what you see in places like Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas. It started with people investing; companies grow, exist, then they stay and start new companies. It’s a cycle.”