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Biotech firm has another investor

A Boston-area venture firm has taken a stake in Spokane-based biotech firm Signature Genomic Laboratories LLC, the two companies said recently.

Ampersand Ventures, based in Wellesley, Mass., joins Sacred Heart Medical Center and Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories as investors in the company. Until this investment, Sacred Heart and PAML owned half of Signature Genomic and co-founders Lisa Shaffer and Bassem A. Bejjani owned the other half.

The amount of the investment and the ownership stake of Ampersand won’t be disclosed, said Shaffer, the company’s CEO and president. Ampersand Ventures will place two directors on the seven-person board of Signature Genomic, Shaffer said.

Shaffer and Bejjani started the company in 2003, when it was the first firm to offer diagnostic tools to help clinics and physicians identify chromosome abnormalities.

Those tools, called microarray-based cytogenetic diagnostics, allow geneticists, genetics counselors and other professionals help patients identify or deal with possible health deficiencies or disease.

A microarray is a physical surface to which DNA segments of the human genome have been added. Test or patient DNA is measured and compared with the microarray DNA to find potential chromosome irregularities.

While the company was the first to launch that service, there are roughly a dozen others developing similar systems, said Shaffer.

Ampersand will help Signature Genomic maintain its edge and continue growing, she said. More than half of all microarray-based diagnostics done last year in the country were performed by Signature Genomic, said Shaffer.

“It’s time to turbo-charge the company,” added Shaffer, with the investment helping direct growth and efforts to find more partners.

Shaffer said the company is profitable, but does not disclose its finances.

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