David Olson, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor-based company, likens reading DNA sequences to trying to read a shredded-up phone book of all the phone numbers on the planet. One thing that helps computer scanners to read those sequences is to tag the ends of them. Swift makes the tags.
That’s been a good enough sell to attract $13 million in venture capital since the company’s start in 2010 with $400,000 in seed money from angel investors based in Southeast Michigan.
The angel investors were joined by Mercury Fund out of Houston in 2010 for a Series A round that raised $3 million. A Series B round that closed last October raised $7 million and was led by Boston-based Fletcher Spaght Ventures, with the Mercury Fund, Grand Rapids-based Michigan Accelerator Fund and the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund also participating.
Follow-on funding in between the rounds topped off the amount raised. The round that closed in October most likely was the company’s last equity round, Olson said.
Olson and Vladimir Makarov, chief scientific officer, founded the company based on Makarov’s research. The two founders have roots in the world of Ann Arbor life sciences startups.
Olson had early roles at ProNAi Therapeutics Inc., Accuri Cytometers Inc. and Tangent Medical Technologies Inc. Accuri was the prize in one of Michigan’s biggest exits in recent memory when New Jersey-based medical device supplier Becton, Dickinson and Co. bought the company in 2011 for $205 million. Its CEO at the time, Jeff Williams, now heads up Tangent.
Makarov was a founder of Rubicon Genomics Inc., where Roger Newton, chairman and chief scientific officer at Esperion Therapeutics Inc., sits on the board. Esperion raised $73 million in an IPO last June.
The company has 15 employees and three product lines, one launched in 2012 and two last year, going to academic and corporate customers such as clinical researchers and pharmaceutical companies.
There’s been plenty of M&A activity for companies like Swift, making an acquisition the most likely exit avenue for the company, Olson said, declining to give a timeline.
“It would be natural for the company to exit in an acquisition,” he said.