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Follow the Money: $100M to DNAnexus, Investments in Machine-Learning for Drug Discovery, More



By Bio-IT World Staff

June 17, 2020 | Big investments this past month in machine-learning driven drug discovery from insitro, and DNAnexus’s and cloud-based informatics platform. Vaccine funding for GreenLight Biosciences, boron drug delivery, and more of the latest funding updates from across life sciences, clinical trials, the diagnostics industries.  

$143M: Machine-Learning-Enabled Drug Discovery 

insitro, a San Francisco machine-learning driven drug discovery and development company, has raised $143 million in an oversubscribed Series B financing. The financing was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from new investors Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments) and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, as well as funds managed by BlackRock, Casdin Capital, HOF Capital, WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, and other undisclosed investors. Current investors also participated in the financing. Proceeds from the financing will be used to continue to build insitro’s foundations of technology and automation, enabling data generation at larger scale and further expanding the capabilities to generate predictive models of human disease. In addition, this capital will be used to prosecute newly identified, genetically validated targets, to identify patient segmentation biomarkers, and to advance therapeutics in genetically-defined patient populations. insitro also plans to establish new, synergistic industry partnerships and build additional ML-enabled capabilities along the R&D value chain in order to accelerate drug discovery and development. 

$120M: Speeding Supply Chain 

Rapid Micro Biosystems, Lowell, Mass., has completed a $120 million financing, including an equity investment led by Ally Bridge Group, along with Endeavour Vision and existing investors including Bain Capital Life Sciences, Longitude Capital, Xeraya Capital and Asahi Kasei. Proceeds will enable the company to meet growing demand for its automated microbial detection platform and support new product development for pandemic response. It will also accelerate new product development of a rapid sterility test for the final release of products which can significantly shorten the supply chain by accelerating deployment of biologics, vaccines and cell therapies to patients, and fund further commercial expansion in the United States, Europe and Asia. 

$119M: mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine 

GreenLight Biosciences, Boston, has closed two recent funding rounds: a $17 million special purpose funding round in May and a $102 million round in June. Both rounds come from new and existing investors. The May $17 million round was directed toward building out its scalable mRNA production capability targeting the production of billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to expanding its manufacturing capacity, GreenLight is developing several differentiated mRNA vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. mRNA-based vaccines offer the potential to address pandemics because of shorter pre-clinical development times compared to traditional vaccines. The June $102 million round is broader, meant to rapidly expand production of its RNA products for agricultural and life sciences applications. Participating investors in the May round include Flu Lab, Xeraya Capital, and Baird Capital. Participating investors in the June round include Morningside Ventures, agriculture venture firm S2G Ventures, Cormorant Asset Management, Continental Grain Company, Fall Line Capital, Tao Capital Partners, Baird Capital, MLS Capital Fund II, Lewis and Clark AgriFood, and Lupa Systems. 

$100M: Cloud-Based Informatics Platform 

DNAnexus, Mountain View, Calif., has closed a $100 million financing round. The financing was led by Perceptive Advisors and Northpond Ventures, joining existing investors GV, Foresite Capital, TPG Capital, and First Round Capital, and first-time equity investor Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. These funds will advance the company’s growth globally, enabling DNAnexus to further serve leading healthcare and life science organizations. The DNAnexus Platform accelerates digital transformation by simplifying complex data analysis, clinical data management, and insights at a scale not previously possible. 

$100M: Health Monitoring System, COVID-19 Test 

Cue Health, San Diego, has closed its Series C financing round, raising $100 million in new capital. Investors in Cue’s Series C include Menlo Park-based Decheng Capital, Foresite Capital, Madrone Capital Partners, Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JJDC, Inc., ACME Capital and other investment firms. Proceeds from the financing will be used to complete development, validation, and scale-up of manufacturing of the Cue Health Monitoring System and Cue Test Cartridges. Cue’s operations, including manufacturing, are vertically integrated and currently occupy approximately 55,000sqft in San Diego, CA USA. The company plans to increase its footprint to over 110,000sqft to better support development and commercialization of its products, including a fast, portable, and easy-to-use molecular test for COVID-19, which is currently under review by the FDA for an Emergency Use Authorization. 

$70M: NGS Automation, Epidemic Response 

Ginkgo Bioworks, Boston, announced a $70 million investment from Illumina and existing Ginkgo investors, General Atlantic and Viking Global Investors to build infrastructure to enable rapid epidemic response. Next-generation sequencing, coupled with Ginkgo's hardware and software that is designed for the large-scale automation of biological experiments, has the potential to significantly increase COVID-19 testing capacity, contributing to the testing volume that many public health experts believe is necessary for slowing the spread of the virus. Ginkgo is deploying its resources toward building an epidemic monitoring and diagnostic testing facility in its Boston Seaport labs, developing processes that use Illumina's NGS technology for large-scale testing, in addition to whole genome sequencing and environmental monitoring. Currently in an early build phase, Ginkgo aims to have NGS-based testing capacity available to help reopen schools and businesses. 

$60M: Series A Structural Immunology Platform 

Ventus Therapeutics, Boston and Montreal, announced a $60 million Series A financing led by founding investor Versant Ventures with participation by GV (formerly Google Ventures). Proceeds will be used to advance three pipeline programs and to expand the company’s structural immunology platform to pursue previously intractable drug targets. Ventus’ structural immunology platform is based on protein engineering capabilities with the necessary know-how to generate and express stable monomers of known targets, including the inflammasomes and nucleic acid sensing targets. This in turn enables the elucidation of protein structures and the implementation of direct biochemical and biophysical assays that previously did not exist. 

$50M: Cloud R&D Platform 

Benchling, San Francisco, announced it closed $50 million in Series D funding led by Alkeon and joined by new investors Spark Capital, Lux Capital and ICONIQ Partners, as well as existing investors Thrive Capital, Benchmark and Menlo Ventures. Benchling will use the investment to build advanced product capabilities, expand its international presence, and drive adoption across leading R&D organizations, bringing the power of modern-day software to drive the rapid transformation of the life sciences industry. 

$30M: Boron Drug Delivery 

TAE Life Sciences (TLS), Santa Monica, Calif., has launched its in-house boron delivery drug development program supported by an influx of $30M in funding. The initial phase of the B-round funds comes from a consortium of investors including ARTIS Ventures, who led the company’s initial funding in 2018. TLS is a biological-targeting radiation therapy company developing next-generation boron neutron capture therapy solutions (BNCT). This investment will enable TLS to move beyond the current boron-10 drug, BPA, and speed development of novel proprietary boron-10 target drugs at the same time that it hones its neutron beam accelerator technology for BNCT. BNCT is a particle therapy designed to selectively destroy cancer cells without damaging neighboring healthy cells. The TLS diversified drug program objectives include improved targeting of cancer cells, increased boron accumulation in target cells, longer boron retention time, and more boron homogeneity. 

$12M: Solid Cancer Monitoring, Treatment 

C2i Genomics, New York, has raised $12 million in its Series A financing. The financing was led by Casdin Capital and joined by additional new investors including NFX Capital, The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research and other investors. Proceeds from the financing will be used to fund the development and clinical validation of C2i Genomics’ personalized, real-time solution for monitoring recurrence and treatment response for various types of solid cancers. C2i Genomics’ innovative solution is based on research performed at the New York Genome Center (NYGC) and Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) by Dr. Asaf Zviran, along with Dr. Dan Landau, core faculty member at the NYGC and assistant professor of Medicine at WCM, who serves as scientific co-founder and member of C2i’s scientific advisory board. The technology has been validated through longitudinal clinical cohorts in collaboration with cancer centers in New York and Boston and was recently published in Nature Medicine (DOI: 10.1038/s41591-020-0915-3). This proof-of-concept research was supported by a 2017 grant from The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. 

$10M: Series C Extension for High-Definition PCR 

ChromaCode, Carlsbad, Calif., announced a $10 million Series C extension with an investment from Adjuvant Capital. The Adjuvant investment brings the company’s total Series C funding to $38 million. Managing Partner Jenny Yip will join ChromaCode’s Board of Directors. Funding from this round will support global expansion and continued development of ChromaCode’s high-definition PCR platform (HDPCR), through which the company recently launched a high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 Assay. Adjuvant joins existing ChromaCode investors Northpond Ventures, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Domain Associates, Windham Ventures, Okapi Ventures, Moore Venture Partners and the California Institute of Technology. 

$6.2M: Antibiotic Resistance Diagnostics 

Day Zero Diagnostics, Boston, was awarded up to $6.2 million in non-dilutive funding from Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), a global non-profit partnership dedicated to accelerating early antibacterial research and development to address the rising global threat of drug-resistant bacteria. Day Zero uses genome sequencing and machine learning to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections. The new funds will support the development of Day Zero’s diagnostic system that is intended to help physicians quickly and accurately diagnose and treat life-threatening bacterial infections. The system promises to help patients with severe infections receive the most effective antibiotic treatment on the first day they are admitted to the hospital—day zero—rather than being treated with multiple days of toxic broad-spectrum antibiotics to prevent septic shock. 

$5M: Immuno-Oncology Drugs 

Kineta, Seattle, Wash., is a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on the development of novel immunotherapies in oncology, neuroscience and biodefense. The company has successfully closed its most recent funding round totaling $5 million. This round was led by the Bellevue-based Schlaepfer Family Foundation. Proceeds from this investment round will be used to fund the early development of Kineta's immuno-oncology drug programs. Kineta is focused on developing new, best-in-class immunotherapies to address hard-to-treat cancers in a variety of solid tumors. 

$2.5M: NCI Grant for Bioimaging 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) to continue to develop new and innovative bioimaging techniques that also harness the power of machine learning methods. The grant will support the further development of a new imaging technique that will allow cancer biologists to observe the molecular, metabolic, and functional behavior of breast cancer cells when a targeted therapeutic—specifically human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)—is introduced. It will be used in preclinical research using non-human models. 

$2.5M: NIH Grant For Viral Tests 

University of Texas, Dallas received a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for work on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The grant, spread over five years, will support efforts to advance a novel infectious disease diagnostic approach, develop prototypes, and evaluate the method using clinical specimens. The goal is to develop a more accurate test that could be done while a patient is in the doctor’s office, although the work is several steps from that point. The method uses gold nanoparticles, which attach to antibody molecules that can recognize and bind with protein molecules found on the surfaces of viruses. Researchers apply short laser pulses to activate the nanoparticles to generate nanoscale bubbles, or nanobubbles. An accumulation of nanobubbles signals the presence of a virus. 

$1.8M: Dental Tissue Engineering 

LaunchPad Medical, Lowell, Mass., has received follow-on support of up to $1.8 million from the Michigan-Pittsburgh-Wyss Regenerative Medicine Resource Center, which was funded by NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research (U24-DE029462) to improve the translation of promising tissue engineering and regenerative medicine technologies for dental, oral, and craniofacial clinical practice. This grant will allow the company to conduct a pivotal animal study and generate all the other required data to file an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application with the FDA to start a clinical trial. 

$1.7M: Gas-Sensing Gut Capsule 

Atmo Biosciences, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia has raised a further A$2.5 million in an oversubscribed funding round, supplementing an initial seed raise in March 2019. Atmo’s ingestible gas-sensing capsule continuously measures clinically important gaseous biomarkers produced by the microbiome in the gastrointestinal system. This data is transmitted wirelessly to the cloud for aggregation and analysis. Atmo will use the funds for continued product development, manufacture of the second generation gas-sensing capsule, and pilot clinical trials aimed at developing a path to regulatory approval. 

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