Follow the Money: CRISPR, Next-Gen Neuroscience, Protein Platforms
October 11, 2021 | CRISPR unicorn, pan-coronavirus vaccine research, chemical and biological weapons protection for warfighters, new methods for live cell research, seed round for a new drug discovery platform, and more.
$195M for CRISPR Toolkit
Mammoth Biosciences has secured $195 million in financing, joining the select ranks of “unicorn” startups with a valuation of more than $1 billion. The funds will enable the company to broaden its toolkit of next-generation CRISPR systems with a focus on building permanent genetic cures through in vivo gene-editing therapeutics and democratizing disease detection with on-demand diagnostics. The financing comprises a $150 million Series D led by Redmile Group, with participation from Foresite Capital, Senator Investment Group, Sixth Street, Greenspring Associates, Mayfield, Decheng Capital, NFX and Plum Alley, among others. It follows a $45 million Series C in late 2020, which was led by Redmile Group and Foresite Capital, and included participation from Amazon as well as existing investors.
$124M Buyout for Protein Detection, Acquisitions
Vector Laboratories has closed a $124 million cash buyout, backed by private equity firm Thompson Street Capital Partners, to accelerate its expansion into protein detection. This new funding enables Vector Laboratories to embark upon an acquisition strategy, while also accelerating the commercialization of innovative labeling and detection technologies for immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, glycobiology, and bioconjugation. Through this buyout, Vector Laboratories has gained the flexibility of a well-funded startup combined with a market-tested product portfolio driving innovative research by academic, industrial, and clinical researchers around the world. The buyout was led by Lisa V. Sellers, Ph.D., now appointed Chief Executive Officer. Prior to taking the helm at Vector Laboratories, Dr. Sellers served as Chief Operating Officer at the company. Previously, she served as VP of Marketing at 10x Genomics, having led marketing during the company's hyper-growth phase. In addition, she has held leadership roles overseeing the global reagent and instrumentation businesses for Applied Biosystems, Life Technologies, and ThermoFisher Scientific.
$109M for COVID-19 Consumables Supply Chain
OraSure Technologies has been awarded a $109 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to build additional manufacturing capacity in the United States for InteliSwab COVID-19 rapid tests as part of the nation’s pandemic preparedness plan. InteliSwab is a remarkably simple test that rapidly detects active COVID-19 infection. It was granted three Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June for professional point-of-care use, prescription (Rx) home use, and over-the-counter (OTC) use. The federal funding will expand OraSure’s production capacity by 100 million tests annually, by March 2024. An existing OraSure location in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, will be retrofitted to accommodate increased manufacturing and an additional new facility will be added in another U.S. location to be determined. In addition to this contract, OraSure also has internally funded expansion plans to achieve 120 million tests annually by the second quarter of 2022.
$105M FDA Review Voucher Sale
Albireo Pharma has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its Priority Review Voucher (PRV) for $105 million. The PRV was granted to Albireo under a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provision that encourages the development of treatments for rare pediatric diseases. The Company received the voucher with the approval of Bylvay for the treatment of pruritus in all types of progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC). Albireo will receive a payment of $105 million upon the closing of the transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to occur following expiration of the applicable U.S. antitrust clearance requirements.
$45M Series B for Virtual Care
eVisit, the leading Virtual Care platform for large healthcare providers, has closed a $45 million Series B financing round led by the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Goldman Sachs), with participation from Texas Health Resources, Tom Burton and Steve Barlow (Co-founders of Health Catalyst), and existing insiders. eVisit will invest the capital to drive growth by building out its Virtual Care platform and scaling up its sales and marketing efforts. The fundraise comes in the midst of eVisit’s rapid operational growth and staff expansion, driven by enterprise demand for its Virtual Care capabilities from large-scale Healthcare Organization (HCO) customers including Banner Health, Texas Health Resources Group, and Concentra.
$40M for Diversity in Decentralized Clinical Trials
Lightship has raised $40 million to create access to clinical research for all patients, and improving diversity among patient groups taking part in clinical trials around the world. The funding round has been led by Define Ventures and Brook Byers, with participation from Khosla Ventures, McKesson Ventures and Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures. The new funds will be used to help drive the firm’s expansion, including internationally, with a new office opening in the Fall in London, United Kingdom. With its end-to-end model, Lightship brings operational excellence to running decentralized clinical trials at scale. Founded in 2018, the firm is continuing to add new pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to its client base, in new therapeutic areas, and has continued to expand with the addition of over 100 new employees so far in 2021. To underpin the continued expansion of the firm, Lightship has bolstered its senior team with several senior hires. This includes the appointment of Robert P. Jones as Chief Financial Officer following nearly 14 years with Goldman Sachs as a Managing Director leading the firm's coverage of Healthcare Services & Technology within Global Investment Research.
$36.3M for Pan-Coronavirus Vaccines
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded approximately $36.3 million to three academic institutions to conduct research to develop vaccines to protect against multiple types of coronaviruses and viral variants. The awards are intended to fuel vaccine research for a diverse family of coronaviruses, with a primary focus on potential pandemic-causing coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2. The awards are designed to fund multidisciplinary teams at University of Wisconsin, Madison; Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; and Duke University, Durham, North Carolina to conduct research focused on incorporating understanding of coronavirus virology and immunology, immunogen design, and innovative vaccine and adjuvant platforms and technologies to discover, design, and develop pan-coronavirus vaccine candidates that provide broad protective immunity to multiple coronavirus strains.
$22.8M Series A for Next-Gen Neuroscience
Rune Labs, a brain data company empowering the development and delivery of precision neuroscience therapeutics, has announced a $22.8 million Series A financing led by Eclipse Ventures with participation from current investors including DigiTx and Moment Ventures. Justin Butler, Partner at Eclipse, will join the Rune Labs Board of Directors. Rune Labs was founded to fill the gap in software and data support for next-generation neuroscience therapeutics, and to expand the benefits of precision medicine to the millions of patients with neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. Rune’s first-in-class precision brain data software platform integrates electrophysiology, brain imaging, and device data together with wearable data and clinical labels. The combination will provide researchers, drug developers, and clinicians with the tools to guide treatment, uncover hidden disease phenotypes, and design better-targeted therapies.
$22M Series C, Acquisition for Imaging Data Management, Analytics
Flywheel has announced a $22 million Series C funding round and a subsequent acquisition. The funding round is being led by 8VC, which is focused on building technology platforms that create long-term economic and societal value. Other investors include iSelect, Argonautic Ventures, Beringea, DrX/Novartis, HPE Pathfinder, Spike Ventures, Key Investments, Seraph, Great North Labs and others. The acquisition is of St. Louis-based Radiologics. The two organizations’ combined capabilities in imaging research data management and analytics provide the medical research community unrivaled end-to-end research workflow solutions—from open source to global enterprise. Together, the two companies, now operating as Flywheel, offer the only biomedical research platform that can connect any organization or data set across academia, life sciences, clinical, and medical AI.
$20M Series A for Protein-Protein Interactions
A-Alpha Bio has closed a $20M Series A Financing Round to dramatically expand capabilities and throughput. The round was led by Madrona Venture Group with participation from Perceptive Advisors’ Perceptive Xontogeny Venture Fund (PXV Fund) and Lux Capital. Madrona Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain and Xontogeny’s Ben Askew, Ph.D. have joined A-Alpha Bio’s Board of Directors as part of the financing. A-Alpha Bio is building a high-resolution model of biology by measuring millions of protein-protein interactions, leveraging the intersection of synthetic biology, protein engineering, and machine learning. Compared to traditional technologies for screening protein interactions, including biophysical and display platforms, A-Alpha Bio’s proprietary AlphaSeq platform can measure protein interactions at a scale and to a degree of precision that is otherwise inaccessible. The quantity and quality of AlphaSeq data is ideal for drug discovery and also critical for training highly predictive ML-models for protein-protein binding.
$20M for Personalized Medicine Plans
Tesis Labs, a leader in targeted genetic sequencing, announced $20 million of growth equity financing at a post-money valuation of $520 million. The round was led by Xcellerant 1 TLC, LLC, an investment group headed by John Shufeldt, M.D. This is the first external financing for Tesis Labs since it initiated operations in early 2020. Prior to this funding, the Company raised approximately $15 million. Tesis Labs offers healthcare providers and physicians access to unique genetic testing and precision medicine, enabling them to create personalized care plans for treating chronic diseases – individually and across generations. The Tesis mission is to change medicine by providing physicians, hospitals, and researchers with treatment tools to help patients overcome major chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer through advanced genetic testing.
$17.1M to Study Drugs for Pregnant Women, Children
A new, five-year $17.1 million grant awarded to The Ohio State University College of Medicine will fund the creation of a knowledge bank to support the study of drugs and medical treatments for pregnant and lactating women and children. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant to the departments of Biomedical Informatics, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics will help establish the Maternal and Pediatric Precision in Therapeutics Data, Model, Knowledge and Research Coordination Center. This newly created center will serve as a national resource for multidisciplinary expertise and knowledge in maternal and pediatric therapeutics.
$16M for Chemical, Biological Weapons Protection
Charles River Analytics announced it was awarded a contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to lead a team of research organizations seeking to develop a novel biosystem solution to protect warfighters from chemical and biological threats. The five-year, $16M contract will focus on neutralizing threats at vulnerable internal tissue barriers (including skin, airway, and ocular barriers) using a configurable biological countermeasure. Charles River Analytics will lead a team of partners as they collaborate on DARPA’s Personalized Protective Biosystem (PPB) program. PPB aims to develop technology that reduces the need for burdensome protective equipment while increasing individual protection against biological attacks. The program will explore the use of new transgenic commensal organisms—specifically hookworms and schistosomes—to secrete therapeutics specifically targeting chemical and biological threats, including neurotoxins (such as organophosphates) and microbial pathogens.
$13.6M for COVID-19 Testing Consumables
OraSure Technologies has announced that the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA), part of the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will provide up to $13.6 million in funding for the Company to obtain 510(k) clearance and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) waiver for OraSure’s InteliSwab COVID-19 rapid test from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). InteliSwab is a simple “swab, swirl, and see” test that uses an integrated swab to self-collect a sample from the lower nostrils. The result appears right on the test stick within 30 minutes. It has three Emergency Use Authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration for professional point-of-care use, prescription (Rx) home use, and over-the-counter (OTC) use.
$13.5M for New Experimental Methods for Live Cell Research
A new Center for Live Cell Genomics, funded by a five-year, $13.5-million grant from the National Institutes of Health, will bring together researchers at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute to develop new methods and experimental platforms for biomedical research using live cells and tissues. The center will deploy this new biotechnology to study neurodevelopmental diseases and cancer. UC Santa Cruz has built an international reputation as a leader in bioinformatics and genomics, working at the forefront of efforts to use genomics in precision medicine and biomedical research. With the new center, the Genomics Institute is spearheading transformational innovations in experimental platform design for large-scale, long-term genomic studies of disease processes in living cells and complex tissues. Advanced methods for growing three-dimensional cultures of human cells and tissues in the lab will be combined with “lab-on-a-chip” technologies and connected to the internet to create an inexpensive and scalable system with internet-based remote control and analysis capabilities.
$10.89M Wellcome Funding For COVID-19 Therapeutics
The COVID Moonshot, a non-profit, open-science consortium of scientists from around the world dedicated to the discovery of globally affordable and easily-manufactured antiviral drugs against COVID-19 and future viral pandemics has received key funding of £8 million from Wellcome, on behalf of the Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The Moonshot started as a spontaneous virtual collaboration in March 2020. As countries locked down, a group of scientists, academics, pharmaceutical research teams and students began a worldwide, twitter-fuelled race against the clock to identify new molecules that could block SARS-CoV-2 infection and develop pills that would be readily available to the most vulnerable communities. All the generated discovery scientific data and the general learnings of the project will be put in the public domain. Moonshot data is already available online to enable others to freely build on its work – the project has already generated over 50% of known structural information on the main protease, a key protein in SARS-CoV-2. The first clinical trials are expected in 2022.
$9M Seed Funding for Drug Discovery Platform
Fauna Bio, a biotechnology company leveraging animal genomics to improve human health, today announced it has raised $9 million in Seed funding led by LifeForce Capital, with participation from True Ventures, Boom Capital, Pacific 8 Ventures, BioMed Ventures, Vibe Capital and Arcadia Science. Fauna Bio will use the new funds to expand its drug discovery platform Convergence while accelerating the discovery of new therapeutic targets for human diseases across a broad range of indications. Fauna Bio harnesses the power of comparative and functional genomics to find better therapies for human disease, including neurologic, metabolic, fibrotic, and cardiovascular disorders. The initial version of Convergence uses gene expression data from hibernating mammals due to their extreme biology and their remarkable ability to reverse disease-causing traits. The platform has so far identified two compounds and four novel genetic targets currently undergoing evaluation for heart disease and related disorders. The company also collaborates with Novo Nordisk on a target discovery program for obesity. Additionally, Fauna Bio has identified seven novel genetic targets to reduce fibrosis, which is a core component of many chronic and debilitating diseases, including NASH and cardiovascular disease secondary to chronic kidney disease and diabetic cardiomyopathy.
$6.8M Swedish IPO for Simultaneous Analysis of Gut Microbiota
Microbiome DX company Genetic Analysis AS closed up 50% over the first two days of trading on the Swedish Spotlight Stock Market following completion of a share issue. The issue of units was oversubscribed to a total of approximately NOK 99 million, corresponding to a subscription ratio of approximately 165 percent, and the Company received approximately NOK 60 million before issue costs. Through the issue of units, approximately 1,200 new shareholders were added to GA including several leading Nordic and international private and institutional investors. The company now plans to use the funds to accelerate commercialization of its proprietary GA-map diagnostic platform for simultaneous analysis of gut microbiota.
$5M Seed Round for Web-Based CRISPR Data Analysis
Latch Bio, a company building data infrastructure for the biocomputing revolution, today announced the closing of a $5 million seed funding round led by Lux Capital with participation from General Catalyst, Haystack, Fifty Years, and Asimov co-founder and CEO, Alec Nielsen, Ph.D. The company has also announced the launch of its first-of-a-kind web-based platform which enables any biologist to analyze CRISPR data without any code or cloud infrastructure setup. Latch Bio was founded in 2021 by Alfredo Andere, Kyle Giffin, and Kenny Workman who met as undergraduates at the University of California, Berkeley. Using the Latch platform, any researcher can now create a centralized one-stop-shop for storing, transforming and visualizing their data without writing any code. Through the Latch plugins, users can import files from their existing data stack including Amazon S3, Benchling, and Illumina’s BaseSpace. Biologists have access to dozens of popular workflows including CRISPResso, MAGeCK, CasTLE, Cas.py, MultiQC, and CasOffinder, among others. After performing a specific workflow, users can further interrogate the results using the built-in genomic visualizer and quality controls. The Latch platform is offered free to academic research users.
$4M in NIH Funding for Early Career Researchers at Mount Sinai
Two Mount Sinai cancer researchers will be awarded $4 million in total costs from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund, which supports exceptionally high-impact programs and research by junior scientists around the country. Deborah Marshall, MD, MAS, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at The Tisch Cancer Institute and The Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Jalal Ahmed Khan, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Precision Immunology Institute and The Tisch Cancer Institute, each received an Early Independence Award worth $2 million given out over five years. Dr. Marshall’s study seeks to define novel predictors of female sexual dysfunction and to identify quantitative imaging and microbiome-based biomarker indices associated with damage to specific sexual organs from radiation oncology treatments. Dr. Ahmed Khan’s study seeks to advance the cancer therapy known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy for solid tumors by manipulating CAR T cell interactions with the immune tumor microenvironment.
$1.99M Seed Round for Medical Genetics Software
Genetics software startup PhenoTips announced today that it has raised CAD $2.5 million in an oversubscribed seed fundraising round led by the GreenSky Accelerator Fund IV. This round includes the support of the Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners, Thin Air Labs, Yorkville Partners, and angel investors including members of the GreenSky President’s Club. PhenoTips empowers healthcare providers to deliver precision medicine with the most complete and interoperable software solution for medical genetics. PhenoTips’ technology is used by leading genetic care providers in four countries, across four NHS Trusts and two provincial Canadian health systems, currently serving over 200,000 patients with tools that enable deep phenotyping, family history, and genomic analysis. With the additional funds from this seed round, the company plans to double the size of its twelve-person Canada-based team and expand its cloud-based product offerings.
$1M to Engage Diverse Researchers in the All of Us Dataset
Baylor College of Medicine has received more than $1 million from the National Institutes of Health to engage researchers from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, in utilizing the All of Us Research Program’s data resources to advance precision medicine. As part of the effort to engage researchers from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, in using All of Us data, Baylor will host All of Us Evenings with Genetics seminars, modeled after the Evenings with Genetics seminars hosted by the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, at universities across the country. The seminar series will introduce the All of Us Research Program to biomedical researchers and students from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, and show them how to use the data in a variety of fields, including medicine, psychology, nutrition, and education.