Follow the Money: AI in Gastroenterology Research, Cloud Infrastructure Provisioning
February 8, 2022 | Sanofi and Exscientia collaborate to use AI for oncology and immunology treatments, Iterative Scopes using AI in gastroenterology treatments, Quris uses AI for clinical prediction, and more.
$517.8M: Series B for Live-Cell Super-Resolution Microscopy
Eikon Therapeutics, Inc., a pioneer in the application of live-cell super-resolution microscopy to drug discovery, announced that it has closed a $517.8 million Series B financing. Since its founding two years ago, Eikon Therapeutics has raised more than $668 million to advance its mission of inventing new therapies that address grievous illness. New investors participating in the Series B financing include funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), EcoR1 Capital, UC Investments (Office of the Chief Investment Officer of the Regents of the University of California), ADIA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, StepStone Group, Soros Capital, Schroders Capital, Harel Insurance, General Catalyst, E15 VC, Hartford HealthCare Endowment, and AME Cloud Ventures. The financing also included participation from the company’s Series A investors: The Column Group, Foresite Capital, Innovation Endeavors, Lux Capital, and Horizons Ventures.
$297.5M: PCORI Funding Available for Comparative Clinical Effectiveness Research Studies
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has opened the application periods for eight funding opportunities that offer up to $297.5 million in total funding. The latest PCORI Funding Announcements (PFAs) include up to $262 million for comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that help determine which health care options or approaches work best for patients and their caregivers given their particular circumstances. These first funding opportunities of 2022 advance PCORI’s ambitious three-year funding commitment plan totaling $1.8 billion, which the PCORI Board of Governors approved last year. The largest funding announcement, the Broad Pragmatic Studies PFA, seeks proposals for CER studies lasting up to five years with up to $5 million or up to $10 million in direct costs per study in four priority areas: addressing disparities; assessment of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options; communication and dissemination research; and improving health care systems. PCORI offers up to $162 million through this PFA. Three Targeted PFAs seek proposals for CER studies focused on brief interventions for adolescent alcohol use; prevention, early identification, and treatment of delirium in older adults; and interventions targeting mental health in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Collectively, PCORI offers up to $100 million through these three PFAs. One additional PFA providing up to $12 million seeks proposals for studies on improving methods to conduct patient-centered CER to enhance the scientific rigor of this field of research. In addition, three other funding announcements, together offering up to $23.5 million, seek proposals for projects to implement results of PCORI-funded research and advance approaches to effective shared decision making in practice settings. These PFAs aim to help useful research findings that have been shown to improve outcomes get taken up and used more widely and quickly in health care delivery.
$200M: Series B for Autoimmune Disorder Treatments
Alumis, formerly Esker Therapeutics, a precision immunology company backed by Foresite Capital and incubated by Foresite Labs that is reimagining the discovery, development, and treatment of autoimmune disorders, announced the completion of a $200 million financing led by AyurMaya, an affiliate of Matrix Capital Management, and by a U.S.-based healthcare-focused fund. In conjunction with the financing, Alumis announced that Dr. Alan Colowick, managing director at Matrix, joined the company’s board of directors. Proceeds from the financing will be used to continue to advance Alumis’ pipeline, led by ESK-001, a highly selective and potentially best in class TYK2 inhibitor with greater selectivity for TYK2 over JAK1 compared to current therapies in clinical development. ESK-001 is currently being developed for the treatment of psoriasis. Beyond ESK-001, Alumis is using its data analytics and research capabilities to build a pipeline from internal and external sources focused on delivering precision immunology therapies impacting the causal drivers of multiple autoimmune disease indications.
$150M: Series B for AI-Driven Precision Medicine for Gastroenterology
Iterative Scopes has raised $150 million in Series B financing to accelerate development of its core algorithmic innovations that are designed to transform gastroenterology care for patients. The round was co-led by Insight Partners and Clearlake Capital Group, L.P. (together with certain of its affiliates, “Clearlake”), as well as by returning investors Obvious Ventures, Johnson and Johnson Innovation-JJDC Inc., Eli Lilly, Breyer Capital, and other industry and financial leaders. The latest financing comes shortly after the company raised $30 million in a Series A round in August 2021 which totals to $182M raised in 2021.
$100M: Series A for GPCR-Targeting Small Molecules
Septerna, a biotechnology company discovering and advancing novel small molecule medicines targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), announced its launch and Series A financing of $100 million. The Series A financing was led by Third Rock Ventures with significant support by Samsara BioCapital, BVF Partners, Invus Financial Advisors, Catalio Capital Management, Casdin Capital, and Logos Capital. Septerna’s proprietary Native Complex Platform recapitulates GPCRs with their native structure, function, and dynamics outside of the cellular environment, which enables industrial-scale drug discovery using novel screening technologies and structure-based drug design for the first time. Septerna is using the Native Complex to overcome historic challenges of reaching the vast untapped potential of GPCR drug targets for a wide range of diseases. The Series A financing will enable Septerna to advance its emerging pipeline of novel GPCR-targeted drug programs, enabled by the Native Complex Platform and spanning multiple therapeutic areas. In addition, the company will continue to build its industrialized platform to enable drug discovery across the entire GPCR superfamily and to uncover novel mechanisms and new opportunities for previously difficult-to-drug GPCRs to address many diseases.
$100M: Cash Payment as Part of Collaboration and License Agreement for Oncology and Immunology Treatments
Sanofi and Exscientia announced a research collaboration and license agreement to develop up to 15 novel small molecule candidates across oncology and immunology, leveraging Exscientia’s end-to-end AI-driven platform utilizing actual patient samples. The companies have been working together since 2016, and in 2019, Sanofi in-licensed Exscientia’s novel bispecific small molecule candidate capable of targeting two distinct targets in inflammation and immunology. Exscientia and Sanofi will collaborate to identify and select target projects, leveraging Exscientia’s personalized medicine platform. The platform enables a “patient-first” approach through integrating primary human tissue samples into early target and drug discovery research. By doing so, Exscientia scientists can integrate patient, disease, and clinically relevant data into decisions on potential new medicine candidates earlier in the drug creation process. In addition to target discovery, Exscientia will lead small molecule drug design and lead optimization activities up to development candidate nomination, with Sanofi assuming responsibility for preclinical and clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization. Under the terms of the agreement, Exscientia will receive an upfront cash payment of $100 million from Sanofi and will be eligible to receive future research, translational, clinical development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to approximately $5.2 billion in aggregate, if all milestones for all programs are achieved. In the case that Sanofi commercializes a therapeutic from the collaboration, Exscientia will also be eligible to receive tiered royalties on product sales ranging from high-single-digits to mid-teens and an option for clinical co-investment to increase the royalty rate up to 21% on net sales of co-funded products. The upfront cash payment of $100 million is expected to be reflected in the first quarter 2022 financial results of Exscientia as cash inflows from collaborations and recognized as revenue over the duration of the agreement.
$80M: Series A for Stem Cell-Based Therapies
Cellino Biotech, Inc., an autonomous cell therapy manufacturing company, announced the completion of a Series A financing of $80 million, led by the impact investment arm of Bayer AG—Leaps by Bayer—8VC, and Humboldt Fund. New investors in the round include Felicis Ventures and others, joining existing investors The Engine and Khosla Ventures. The company has raised a total of $96 million in gross proceeds from private financings to date. Cellino is on a mission to make stem cell-based regenerative medicines accessible for all eligible patients. Cellino’s next-generation manufacturing platform combines artificial intelligence (AI) and laser technology to automate cell therapy manufacturing to reduce expenditures and overcome scaling limitations. Proceeds from the Series A financing will considerably expand Cellino’s software, machine learning, and hardware capabilities for end-to-end manufacturing of both autologous and allogeneic stem cell-based therapies. In addition, Cellino is building a long-term collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where senior investigator Dr. Kapil Bharti is leading the first autologous induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived clinical trial in the US, to validate Cellino’s manufacturing approach. The company also plans to build early-stage GMP capabilities to support clinical trials.
$50M: Series C for Machine Learning Applications for Medicine Development
Toronto-based BenchSci, a global leader in machine learning applications for novel medicine development, announced a CAD63 million Series C (USD50 Million) funding round led by Inovia Capital and TCV, with participation from existing investors. Bringing total investment to CAD123 million (USD97 million), the funding allows BenchSci to expedite the expansion of its transformative AI-powered software platform that accelerates research in 16 top-20 pharmaceutical companies and over 4,500 leading research centers worldwide. In previous funding rounds, BenchSci raised CAD60 million (USD47 million) from tier one investors including F-Prime, Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI fund), and Inovia Capital. In 2021, BenchSci doubled its team and industry user base and is poised to double again in 2022.
$55M: Series A for Cell Line Engineering Technology
64x Bio has closed a $55 million Series A financing round to fund the expansion of its VectorSelect platform, a novel cell line engineering technology that has the potential to revolutionize the economics and accessibility of gene therapy. The Series A financing was led by Lifeforce Capital, with significant participation from Northpond Ventures, individual investor Michael Chambers (co-founder and former CEO of Aldevron), Future Ventures, and insider First Round Capital. Chris Gibson (co-founder and CEO of Recursion), Alix Ventures, as well as previous investors, Fifty Years, SV Angel, BoxGroup, and Refactor Capital, also participated in the oversubscribed round. The funding will advance 64x’s cell line engineering platform VectorSelect to design improved cell lines for a wide range of gene therapies. 64x will also use the proceeds to dramatically grow its employee base and partnership efforts with leading gene therapy companies, through the expansion of additional intellectual property, operations, and business development infrastructure.
$40M: Series A for Small Molecule Discovery Via AI
1859, Inc. launched with a Series A funding round of $40 million led by experienced life science investors Northpond Ventures and OMX Ventures. Existing investors, FusionX Ventures and Vertical Venture Partners also joined the round. The venture funds will support the development of new capabilities, and the scaling and advancement of preclinical discovery programs building upon a base of 16 pharmaceutical, biotech and academic partners. At the heart of 1859’s discovery engine is its unique “design, build, test, learn” process, which combines the best aspects of empirical data and in silico discovery methods, leveraging next-generation DNA-encoded libraries and artificial intelligence. The platform can identify, synthesize, and test high-potential small molecules at scale. 1859 was incubated at JLABS in San Diego, Calif. and currently employs 53 people. The company is headquartered in San Diego.
$40M: Launch Funds for Somatic Mosaicism
TenSixteen Bio launched with $40M from Foresite Capital and GV (formerly Google Ventures) on a mission to redefine precision medicine in complex disease by leveraging new insights in somatic mosaicism including clonal hematopoiesis (CHIP). Incubated by Foresite Labs, the company aims to leverage its platform to address how somatic mutations that accumulate in our blood and other tissues offer new therapeutic avenues for a broad range of diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease. TenSixteen Bio was co-founded by CEO Mark Chao, physician-scientist and former co-founder of Forty Seven, an immuno-oncology company acquired by Gilead Sciences for $4.9B. Before starting TenSixteen, Dr. Chao served as VP of Oncology at Gilead Sciences and as a Clinical Instructor at Stanford University. TenSixteen is building a comprehensive research and development ecosystem around CHIP and somatic mosaicism. This ecosystem encompasses a large-scale multi-omics and clinical data platform and an expansive research and clinical trial network with leading academic and health care institutions, coupled with a novel proprietary assay to diagnose CHIP. Using these tools, TenSixteen is discovering new drug targets and building the ability to identify the patients who will respond best to tailored treatments.
$28M: Seed Funding for AI-Based Clinical Prediction
Quris, an artificial intelligence (AI) innovator disrupting the pharmaceutical arena, announced the final close of $28 million in seed funding—inclusive of the initial $9 million announced late last year with the launch of Quris’s BioAI platform for clinical prediction. Led by Welltech Ventures with participation from iAngels, GlenRock Capital, and others, the funding will fast-track Quris’s novel drug research and development, team expansion and partner-building efforts as it scales to rapidly scan 100s of drug candidates to train its AI engine in its mission to revolutionize the drug development process.
$21.5M: Series A for Clinical Trials Platform
Topography Health, a full-stack clinical trials platform for community physicians, announced that it has raised $21.5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Bain Capital Ventures, with participation from existing investor Andreessen Horowitz, which led Topography's initial $6M seed round in 2020. The fresh round of Series A financing marks the company's formal public launch after 18 months in stealth. One Medical Founder Tom Lee, former Flatiron Health Chief Medical Officer Bobby Green, and Zillow Co-founder Spencer Rascoff are also investors.
$15.06M: Series B for Mass Spectrometry-Based Proteomics Processing Technologies
PreOmics GmbH, a Martinsried, Germany-based developer of innovative automation and sample preparation tools and consumables for unbiased, deep proteomics analysis by mass spectrometry, has raised €13.5m in a Series B financing round provided by Bruker Corporation. PreOmics’ innovative sample processing technologies for mass spectrometry-based protein analysis are complementary to Bruker’s high-performance scientific instruments, as well as to proteomics mass spectrometry systems by other leading proteomics companies. Close collaboration synergies are expected to broaden the market opportunities for both PreOmics’ BeatBox platform technologies and Bruker’s timsTOF 4D proteomics platform with more complete, automated workflow solutions for academic and clinical researchers, for biomarker discovery and diagnostics companies, as well as for CRO and biopharmaceutical companies. In conjunction with the Series B financing, several early investors in PreOmics, such as High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) and Think.Health Ventures, as well as certain business angels, have successfully sold their PreOmics shares to Bruker in a parallel secondary transaction, and Bruker is now a majority investor in PreOmics. Financial details of the secondary transactions were not disclosed.
$15M: Series A for AI-Powered Drug Discovery
VeriSIM Life has closed its oversubscribed $15 million Series A round. The financing was led by Morpheus Ventures. Additional new investors include Debiopharm Innovation Fund and Colorcon Ventures, with continued support from existing investors OCA Ventures, Intel Capital, Serra Ventures and Susa Ventures. The investment will help scale its operations, democratize its “virtual drug development engine” BIOiSIM, fast-track its sales and marketing efforts and continue work on transformational partnerships with industry and academia. VeriSIM’s BIOiSIM platform, driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), de-risks R&D decisions by providing meaningful insights much earlier in the drug development process with unprecedented accuracy and scalability.
$15M: Series B for Laboratory Digital Transformation
Scitara Corp has closed its Series B round with an additional investment of $15M. Led by existing investor Northpond Ventures, with participation from Flybridge Capital and experienced financial advisors to the biopharma and life science tools industry, the funding will springboard Scitara’s ambitious growth plans for 2022 and beyond to solve the laboratory data integration challenge. Scitara will use the Series B funding to accelerate platform innovation, deliver customer-driven technology offerings, grow its partner ecosystem, and build a community of scientists, developers, and industry consultants to help address an ever-growing list of customer needs.
$10.75M: Series A for Cancer Risk Stratification
PreciseDx has raised $10.75 million in Series A Preferred in 2021 funding to support the ongoing development and commercialization of its AI-powered risk stratification platform. Leveraging AI insights and data derived from high-volume, well-annotated study populations, PreciseDx offers breast cancer diagnostic test services, with a prostate cancer test in development. The use of morphology features to stratify cancer risk provides valuable insights into cancer treatment, attracting the attention of healthcare innovators. The company also announced the appointment of industry veteran Wayne Brinster to Chief Executive Officer, which was effective September 2021. The round was led by the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund (Merck GHI) with additional investment from a number of healthcare leaders and innovators, including Mount Sinai Health System, Agilent Technologies, IBM Ventures, and the Hobart Group. The funding will be used to support the development and commercialization of additional cancer diagnostics and clinical trial testing.
$9.8M: Prize for Targeted Neuromodulation Therapies
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the Neuromod Prize, a $9.8 million competition to accelerate the development of targeted neuromodulation therapies. The first phase calls on scientists, engineers, and clinicians to submit novel concepts and plans for development. The competition is open to U.S. participants, subject to eligibility requirements. NIH seeks groundbreaking uses of peripheral nerve stimulation that can independently regulate two or more desired autonomic functions without unintended effects on non-target organs. Concept papers are due by April 28, and up to eight winners will receive a share of the up to $800,000 Phase 1 prize pool. Phase 1 winners will be exclusively invited to participate in future phases, anticipated to take place in 2022 and beyond. Phase 2 will have a total potential prize pool of $4 million, and Phase 3 will have a total potential prize pool of $5 million, subject to the availability of funds.
$9.4M: Seed Funding for AI for Investing in Life Sciences ALPHA10X officially emerged from stealth with $9.4 million in seed funding and an expanded leadership team to bring AI to life sciences investment. The ALPHA10X platform applies state-of-the-art artificial intelligence models and methods to shape highly relevant investment knowledge from billions of data entities and their connections, generating actionable insights, and predicting the future with high accuracy. The company signed its first commercial contract in the summer of 2021.
$8.37M: Federal Grant, Germany, for Immunomodulatory Therapy
Evotec SE has been selected by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (“BMBF”) to receive a grant for the development of EVT075, a potential first-in-class immunomodulatory therapy against COVID-19. Under the € 7.5 m grant, Evotec will use clinical material manufactured within its Just – Evotec Biologics manufacturing platform to initiate the clinical development of a potentially highly potent immunomodulatory molecule. The molecule has shown great potential to produce a powerful antiviral response against infections with SARS-CoV-2. By amplifying the immune response against coronavirus infections, the molecule can potentially reduce the viral load. Thus, the early administration of this biologic may significantly lower the risk of a severe progression of COVID-19 that requires hospitalisation of patients. Evotec intends to use the grant to initiate clinical studies assessing the safety and efficacy of the compound and to determine the optimal dose-range in healthy volunteers as well as COVID-19 patients.
$6.1M: Public Launch of Cloud Infrastructure Provisioning Company
Sync Computing, a deep tech, distributed cloud infrastructure company, came out of stealth mode, revealing its initial products, customer traction, and $6.1 million funding. Moore Strategic Ventures and National Grid Partners led the round, joining existing investor The Engine. Alongside active pilots with both public and private enterprise customers in SaaS, finance, and data sectors, the company recently was awarded a $1M contract from the Department of Defense for large, distributed workload optimization. Sync Computing is using the new capital to advance its leadership in the modern data infrastructure space and support further development of its accelerated data infrastructure engine and solution lines. As part of its public launch, Sync announced two solutions—the Sync Autotuner for Apache Spark, and the Sync Orchestrator—a major step in large-scale cloud multi-tenant orchestration of complex data pipelines, inspired by Sync cofounders’ PhD research on solving complex combinatorial optimization problems. The Sync Autotuner for Apache Spark eliminates provisioning friction for EMR and Databricks on AWS infrastructure, while reducing runtimes and job costs.
$6M: Seed Financing Round for Optogenetic Gene Therapies
Ray Therapeutics, a biotech company developing optogenetic gene therapies for patients with blinding diseases, announced the closing of a $6M seed financing round, led by 4BIO Capital. The funding will be used to advance its optogenetic therapy, Ray-001, into clinical trials in retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Based on the durability of treatment demonstrated in preclinical studies, Ray-001 is intended to be a one-time treatment via intravitreal injection that is sustainable for a lifetime. Unlike current RP gene therapies in development, which are targeted to specific genetic mutations or individuals with remaining photoreceptors that only address a small patient population, Ray-001 is mutation-independent. Optogenetics is a promising approach that has the potential to restore useful vision to visually-impaired and blind individuals. In RP, a patient’s photoreceptors, the primary cells required for vision, are lost and cannot regenerate. However, inner retinal neurons downstream to photoreceptors, especially retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), persist in significant numbers even in late-stage disease. Ray Therapeutics’ lead candidate Ray-001 uses an intravitreal approach where it diffuses from the vitreous into the retina and transduces primarily the RGCs.
$3.38M: Seed Funding for Genomic Data Management
University of Cambridge technology spin-out Zetta Genomics has raised £2.5 million in new seed funding. The successful round secures capital investment from Cambridge Enterprise, APEX Ventures (Vienna) and Nina Capital (Barcelona) in the company’s XetaBase platform—a transformational genomic data management technology that powers the discovery and delivery of precision medicine at scale. Built on the open-source OpenCB platform, co-developed by Zetta Genomics founder, Ignacio Medina, XetaBase allows researchers and clinicians to securely store, easily access and dynamically interrogate vast and increasing volumes of genomic data on demand. VC-backed funding will focus on growth, enhancing the company’s partnership network while it expands from the UK to open both Spanish and US offices. Investment will also focus on talent, with a five-fold increase in headcount to secure additional software, development and commercialization expertise.
Investment in Genetic Data Analysis and Interpretation
Geneyx Genomex, an Israel-based developer of a genetic data analysis and interpretation platform, has closed its seed round financing led by Capri Ventures and Accenture Ventures to help the company expand its global footprint and accelerate the development of its technology. Geneyx AI-based technology builds on the gold standard in global knowledge bases for interrogating genetic information and leverages AI to improve risk prediction, diagnostic yield, prognostic prediction, and treatment insights supporting clinical decision-making and biopharmaceutical research, helping to accelerate the development of targeted and personalized therapeutics. By providing biomedical interpretation capabilities that better position clinicians and researchers to use the power of whole-genome sequencing, Geneyx is advancing human health. Geneyx also joined Accenture Ventures’ Project Spotlight, an engagement and investment program that connects emerging technology software startups with the Global 2000 to fill strategic innovation gaps. Project Spotlight offers extensive access to Accenture’s domain expertise and its enterprise clients, helping startups like Geneyx harness human creativity and deliver on the promise of their technology. The companies plan to leverage Accenture’s dataset of 55 million de-identified patient electronic medical records to further joint initiatives.
Undisclosed Investment for Physiologically Relevant Cell Models
PhenoVista Biosciences has secured funding from BroadOak Capital Partners, a life science-focused investor. Since its founding in 2014, PhenoVista has democratized access to high-content analysis of physiologically relevant cell models. The investment will be used to develop new complex products, such as models of the blood-brain barrier and platforms for better understanding neurodegenerative diseases. With BroadOak’s funding, PhenoVista will continue to stay at the forefront of imaging and data-analysis methods and create new models of biological systems in growing fields of interest. These advancements will offer scientists new strategies for enhancing drug-discovery processes and gaining greater insights into biological phenomena, ultimately improving healthcare options for patients everywhere.