Follow the Money: Designer Precision Cancer Medicines, Biotech Workforce Development Program, More

August 30, 2022

August 30, 2022 | AI-enabled drug discovery and sustainable development, a novel antitumor glioma platform, virtual reality operating theaters, and more.

$200M: Funding for Tuberculosis Research 

Johns Hopkins Medicine was awarded up to $200 million in research funding over five years by the U.S. Agency for International Development as leader of an international collaboration. The award will fund the Supporting, Mobilizing, and Accelerating Research for Tuberculosis (TB) Elimination project, which supports studies to improve TB detection methods, treatments, control strategies, and prevention. Additionally, it will strengthen research efforts in countries with high TB burdens and transfer knowledge and capacity to local, regional, and national governments, health institutions, and support organizations. 

$122M: Series A Funding for Precision Oncology 

IDRx, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, launched with a $122 million oversubscribed Series A financing round. Inspired by curative combination regimens and engineered drug cocktails, IDRx seeks to address the limitations of today’s precision cancer medicines with highly selective, purposely designed drug combinations to help more patients achieve prolonged, durable responses to therapy. IDRx’s pipeline includes small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors designed to inhibit the key genetic drivers and drug-resistant mutations of the non-platelet-derived growth factor receptor-driven gastrointestinal stromal tumor, sarcoma of the GI tract. 

$95M: Series D Funding for AI-Enabled Drug Discovery and Sustainable Development 

Insilico Medicine announced a second closing of its Series D round, bringing the total financing to $95 million. The new capital will support the continued advancement of Insilico’s pipeline, including its lead anti-fibrotic drug candidate program and several new drug-enabling pipelines. The proceeds will also further Insilico’s development of its end-to-end Pharma.AI platform—a fully automated, AI-driven robotic drug discovery laboratory and biological data factory—and the establishment of regional centers. Insilico will also expand its AI capabilities to sustainable chemistry, green energy, and agriculture. 

$50M: Series A Funding for Disease Targets 

VILYA, a biotechnology company creating a new class of medicines targeting disease biology, announced its launch with $50 million in committed Series A financing led by ARCH Venture Partners. Vilya is co-founded by world-class scientists from the Institute of Protein Design and ARCH Venture Partners. The Company’s proprietary platform, powered by advanced machine learning, designs de novo molecular structures from small molecules to antibodies, with critical drug-like properties, including the ability to move through biological membranes and disrupt protein-protein interactions while being highly selective for their protein target. As a result, these novel artificial molecules can be leveraged for previously difficult-to-drug therapeutic targets in a broad set of indications. 

$29.9M: Seed Funding for Novel Vaccine Production 

Closing on €30 million, AstriVax raised the largest seed capital in the history of KU Leuven spin-offs. The company will use the seed capital to bring their first thermostable yellow fever vaccine to the clinical development stage and to develop their pipeline vaccine candidates further—one to prevent rabies and the other to treat chronic hepatitis B. AstriVax will draw on technology developed at the KU Leuven Rega Institute to develop novel vaccines that are easy to produce, have reduced cold chain requirements, and offer broad and long-lasting protection against various viruses and other pathogens. 

$20M: Funding for Surgery Simulation Training 

FundamentalVR, an immersive simulation platform, raised $20 million in a round of funding to accelerate skill transfer and surgical proficiency through virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality applications. At the heart of the company’s Fundamental Surgery platform is HapticVR, which allows an unlimited number of users to interact in virtual classrooms and operating theaters worldwide by blending tactile vibration with kinesthetics, including force, feedback, and positional haptics. FundamentalVR’s customers include Swiss American multinational Novartis, Mayo Clinic, NYU Langone, and UCLA. 

$19M: Research Awards for Multiple Sclerosis Research 

The National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society committed $19 million to launch 40 new multi-year research awards to end MS forever. Recipients include Oregon Health & Science University, which will investigate signals that cause nerve cells to die; Case Western Reserve will seek new treatment targets to repair nervous system damage; Johns Hopkins will test a potential treatment for MS-related fatigue; and the University of California, San Francisco will determine immune cell spinal fluid triggers. This latest financial commitment is part of a projected total investment of nearly $30 million in 2022 to support more than 250 new and ongoing MS research studies worldwide. 

$17.6M: Research Grant for Cancer Prevention and Research 

Plus Therapeutics announced that the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas awarded them a $17.6 million Product Development Research grant for the continued development of the Company’s lead investigational targeted radiotherapeutic, Rhenium-186 NanoLiposome, for the treatment of patients with leptomeningeal metastases (LM). The independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board has approved the plan to move ahead with Cohort 2 in their Phase 1/2a dose escalation trial. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also granted Fast Track designation to 186RNL for treating LM. 

$15.8M: Awards for Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing 

The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) is pleased to announce approximately $15.8M in planned project activities through the Institute's Project Call 5.2. The project involves 14 new technology and workforce development projects to address key innovation opportunities in the biopharmaceutical industry. It also includes several workforce development projects for those interested in entering or developing skills within the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry. For a description of each project and to learn more about NIIMBL, please visit the Project Call 5.2 website

$12.5M: Funding Award for Viral Emergence Education 

The National Science Foundation awarded Georgetown University $12.5 million to lead a collaborative institute designed to advance research and education around viral emergence—the process of viruses jumping from animals to humans. The Viral Emergence Research Initiative Biology Integration Institute, based at Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, aims to advance a cross-disciplinary research agenda that targets significant sources of emerging infectious diseases. The institute is expected to spark broad advances in machine learning, computational biology, and the open data infrastructure, including a universal, public database for wildlife disease surveillance to broaden the horizons of quantitative work in disease ecology. 

$10.6M: Grant for Anti-Aging Initiative 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Peter Adams, Ph.D., and Bing Ren, Ph.D., a new $10.6 million grant to join a multi-institution initiative studying the process of aging. The grant was awarded as part of the Cellular Senescence Network (SenNet) program, which aims to create a comprehensive atlas of how and where aging cells accumulate in our tissues and open new avenues for treating age-related diseases. Adams and Ren, from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, will contribute to the SenNet project by mapping senescent cells in five different tissues in mice: the liver, the brain, mammary glands, the intestines, and bone marrow. The NIH aims to distribute $190 million in SenNet grants by 2026.  

$10M: Series A Funding for Women’s Health Diagnostics 

Nanopath announced closing $10 million in Series A funding to support the development and commercialization of its biosensing platform. The company seeks to address healthcare disparities for underserved populations, starting with women's health. Nanopath’s proprietary biosensing technology utilizes ultrasensitive optical detection to identify DNA and RNA without needing nucleic acid amplification. Additionally, the technology can simultaneously test for multiple pathogens and reduce test result delivery from days to just 15 minutes. 

$9M: Research Grants for Lupus Treatments 

The Lupus Research Alliance announced that its Global Team Science Award (GTSA) was granted to three international research teams. With $3 million provided to each multidisciplinary team over three years, the GTSA supports the acceleration of effective, personalized lupus treatments. The 2022 GTSA will enable the work of teams headed by world-renowned lupus researchers Betty Diamond, M.D., Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, United States; Martin Kriegel, M.D., Ph.D., University of Münster, Germany; and Eric Morand, M.D., Ph.D., Monash University, Australia. These highly prestigious awards are made possible by a generous grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. 

$8.8M: Grant for Workforce Development Program 

Dallas College was awarded a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to help underserved communities access living-wage jobs in biotechnology. With approximately $8.8 million in funds allocated to growing the region’s future biotech workforce, the new grant will help put North Texas in the company of other major biotech hubs such as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill “triangle.” Under the terms of the grant, funding will be used to create a regional career pathway model committed to hiring 1,100 entry-level biotech workers, providing above-living wages of at least $15 an hour. 

$6.4M: Seed Funding for Novel Oncology Platform 

Modifi Biosciences closed a $6.4M seed round to support investigational new drug-enabling studies and expand their novel oncology platform. The platform uses new classes of molecules to exploit tumor-associated DNA repair defects through direct cancer cell DNA modification. The technology bypasses conventional approaches that indirectly target proteins in cancer cells and demonstrates robust anti-tumor activity in glioma—one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer—while sparing normal tissue. 

$6M: Grant for Vaccine Manufacturing 

The University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky, and Clemson University researchers received a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop purification membranes for large-scale manufacturing of viral vectors and virus-like particles. Virus vectors are the tools scientists use to deliver harmless, modified versions of viruses to human cells. The project will also benefit Arkansas, Kentucky, and South Carolina economically. 

$5.75M: Donation for Blood Cancer Research 

The UVA Cancer Center received an anonymous gift of more than $5.75 million, allowing them to establish a new Translational Orphan Blood Cancer Research Initiative Fund. The fund will support far-reaching efforts in the battle against rare blood cancers, including research, drug development, and a unique training fellowship in orphan blood cancers. The Cancer Center will also launch a new effort to increase collaborations with top researchers outside UVA, including awarding three $250,000 grants to foster these collaborations. 

$5.35M: Funding for COVID-19 Omicron Subvariant Research 

The Canadian Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network is investing another $6.9 million (CAD) to support 15 new research projects focused on better understanding Omicron and future subvariants and finding solutions to curb them. The 15 projects span a variety of focuses, such as studying viral transmission between animals and people, tracking and modeling new variant mutations in Canada, developing new virus surveillance approaches, and pinpointing the social factors that may protect or make Indigenous Peoples more vulnerable to variants. 

$5M: Seed Fund for ML-designed Mini-proteins

Ordaōs, a biotechnology company designing novel mini-proteins has completed $5M in seed financing to aid in new product development and expand partner acquisition efforts. The oversubscribed round was led by Middleland Capital's VTC Ventures with additional investments from Route 66 Ventures, Banyan Pacific Capital, IAG Capital Partners, and Citta Capital. Ordaōs is a human-enabled, machine-driven drug design company that leverages proprietary multitask meta-learning and reinforcement learning to create mini-proteins that enable targeted therapies to reduce patient suffering, improve health, and extend life. Ordaōs uses The Ordaōs Design Engine, to deliver true protein property design - leveraging continuous learning loops and proprietary data sets to translate human-targeted product criteria into machine-designed mini-proteins. Starting with amino acids, the Design Engine generates, appraises, and ranks billions of protein sequences and hundreds of thousands of protein structures and properties to create customized miniPRO proteins. These proteins are then rapidly evaluated in vitro to provide intelligent feedback on multiple design objectives including protein structure, binding specificity and affinity, solubility, stability, immunogenicity, and developability.

$3.5M: Gift for Child and Adolescent Imaging Center 

The Jack Martin Fund (JMF) gifted $3.5 million to The Mount Sinai Health System to establish the JMF Child and Adolescent Imaging Center at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital. The future 2,400-square-foot facility will aim to advance children’s cancer care through pediatric radiology. It will also provide the critical infrastructure to enhance and support the Mount Sinai Children’s Brain and Spinal Tumor Center for advanced research. The Center will promote optimal comfort for children and families with dedicated imaging suites that ensure significantly reduced radiation exposure and provide therapy dogs to escort children and stay with them until testing begins. JMF has supported Mount Sinai for over 70 years, with its first pledge to Pediatric Oncology in 1998. 

$3.35M: Funding for Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy 

Oligomerix announced an award of $3.35 million from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging to support the clinical development of its lead program OLX-07010, an oral tau self-association small molecule inhibitor targeting the beginning of the tau aggregation cascade. Oligomerix plans to begin a Phase 1a clinical trial in healthy volunteers in 2022. 

$3.14M: Seed Funding for Digital Therapeutics Platform 

LUCID secured $3.14 million in seed funding to offer accessible mental health treatments with their clinically validated digital therapeutics platform. The company provides personalized, AI-curated playlists to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, and other neurocognitive conditions. LUCID will use the funding to accelerate co-development with their pharma partners and expand their clinical work. Initially, LUCID will use the technology to alleviate burnout and address symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. 

$3M: Grant for Antiviral Drug Development 

The National Institutes of Health awarded the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Minnesota a $3M grant to establish the Midwest Antiviral Drug Discovery Center for pandemic-level antiviral drug development. The University of Minnesota leads the Center as part of a network of nine national centers designated by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in response to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19. The center brings together collaborative investigators from 16 institutions to discover effective responses to pandemics, life-threatening infections, and drug resistance through basic, translational, and clinical research. 

$2.3M: Grant Award for Translatome Molecular Toolkit 

Scripps Research associate professor Giordano Lippi, Ph.D., and the Gene Yeo lab at the University of San Diego, California have together been awarded a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative. The funding will help advance a toolkit called Surveying Targets by Antibody-free Mutation Profiling, which highlights and predicts how the “translatome”—the entire collection of mRNA that translates into protein—impacts the neurobiological processes underlying physiology, plasticity, and disease. 

Series D Extension for Virtual Care Offerings 

Biofourmis announced that Intel Capital, the investment arm of chipmaker Intel Corporation, extended its Series D financing by an undisclosed amount, bringing the total funding to $320M. Biofourmis will use the funds to scale up its virtual care offerings and digital medicine initiatives. Services include five virtual care programs: heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, lipid management, and atrial fibrillation. The specialty care programs are delivered remotely by Biofourmis’ trained health navigators, frontline care coordinators, and a multidisciplinary team of licensed clinicians, including physicians, nurses, and advanced practice providers. 

Undisclosed Venture Capital Funding for Cardiology Care Companies 

The American Heart Association, Phillips, and Research Corporation Technologies announced the expansion of Cardeation Capital with the first closing on the newest fund, Cardeation II. Cardeation Capital has invested in several emerging healthcare companies that impact the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and risk factors. Entrepreneurs and emerging companies interested in funding to create innovative products and solutions can apply directly to Aphelion Capital.