Follow the Money: NIH Funds Brain Mapping Network Initiative, Non-Invasive Skin Patch for Vaccine Delivery, More
September 28, 2022 | Funding for multi-omic human brain cell atlas, AI-based drug discovery and development, genomic medicine software simulation platform, and more.
$467M: Funding for Clinical Effectiveness Research
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) began inviting proposals for new studies and implementation projects. Through nine PCORI Funding Announcements (PFAs), PCORI will offer up to $467 million for comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that help determine which health care approaches work best for patients and caregivers. One PFA calls for extensive, two-phase CER studies to fill critical evidence gaps. Three PFAs focus on improving the management of multiple chronic conditions, optimizing healthy aging, and preventing osteoporotic fractures. Another PFA addresses health disparities, and the remaining PFAs seek proposals for projects to improve methods of patient-centered CER.
$250M: Cash Payment for Receptor Agonist Therapeutics
Good Therapeutics, a privately held company, announced that it entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by Roche, who will make an upfront cash payment of $250 million for the shares on a fully diluted basis and additional payments based on the achievement of predetermined development, regulatory, and commercial milestones. As a result, Roche will gain rights to Good Therapeutics’ innovative, conditionally active, PD-1-regulated IL-2 program and an exclusive right to the platform technology for developing PD-1-regulated IL-2 receptor agonist therapeutics. In addition, the Good Therapeutics team plans to design other targets in immuno-oncology and beyond in a new company, Bonum Therapeutics.
$189.4M: Funding for Brain Disorder Research
The National Institutes of Health Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative issued a series of awards for neurology research. First, the Allen Institute was awarded $173M to launch the brain equivalent of the Human Genome Project, leading a new global collaboration to map approximately 200 billion cells in the human brain by their type and function. Next, two scientists—Chongyuan Luo, an assistant professor of human genetics, and Aparna Bhaduri, an assistant professor of biological chemistry—at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA were awarded $9.6 million for research projects that aim to shed light on the developing brain’s cellular infrastructure to understand brain disorders better. Finally, a collaborative group of neuroscientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Carnegie Mellon University received a $6.8 million grant to create an ultra-high resolution molecular atlas of the brain and develop brain cell type-specific strategies for effective and precise gene delivery.
$130M: Funding for AI-Based Biomedical Research
Over the next four years, the National Institutes of Health Common Fund’s Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI) program will award $130 million to researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine to accelerate the widespread use of AI in biomedical research and health care. Bridge2AI will fund four data generation projects to create comprehensive AI-ready datasets that will lay the groundwork for new, interpretable, and trustworthy AI technologies. The four multi-site projects will be unified by the Bridge Center, an executive hub that oversees the integration, dissemination, and evaluation of all Bridge2AI activities.
$126M: Grant for Multi-Omic Human Brain Cell Atlas
With a five-year, $126 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, a multi-institution team of researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and elsewhere has launched a new Center for Multi-omic Human Brain Cell Atlas. The center will focus not only on gene expression patterns of each cell but also on DNA methylation, chromatin organization, and histone modifications in the nucleus. Specifically, the team will leverage a technology that can detect and quantify RNA transcripts of hundreds of genes in each cell while recording the cell's anatomical location.
$75.2M: Series B Funding for Ophthalmologic Innovative Therapies
Jeito Capital announced that it co-led a €75 million Series B financing round for SparingVision. This privately held French biotech company develops innovative genetic therapies to treat blinding inherited retinal diseases. Proceeds from the funding will advance the development of SparingVision’s breakthrough lead treatments, SPVN06 and SPVN20, for a unique mutation-agnostic approach leading to new therapies in retinitis pigmentosa, one of the leading inherited causes of blindness. Most notably, the funding will support SparingVision’s first-in-human studies, bringing lead assets to clinical validation.
$53M: Funding for Neurological Disease Research
The Alliance for Therapies in Neuroscience (ATN), Genentech, and Roche committed up to $53 million over ten years for research at the ATN’s participating academic institutions—the University of Washington (UW), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and UC Berkeley—a collaboration that is unique for both its duration and the breadth of its ambitions. With the UW’s recent accession to the ATN, scientists at UW, UCSF, and UC Berkeley can now access this novel pipeline to channel academic discoveries toward new therapies and treatments. ATN endeavors are intended to meet current demands in neurological disease research and treatment and lay the groundwork for future innovations in understanding and treating nervous system disorders.
$46M: Grant for Diversity in Genomic Research
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Accelerate Precision Health program will award $46 million total in funding to the nation’s four historically black medical colleges—Charles Drew University College of Medicine, Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, and Morehouse School of Medicine—to address significant gaps in genomics research, create new tools and methods to prevent and treat disease, and accelerate precision health for everyone. In addition, the program will expand research opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students, support the creation of a new Master of Science program in Genetic Counseling, support the recruitment of anchor faculty in genomics, and fund state-of-the-art tools for data handling, storage, and analysis, among other elements.
$42.5M: Funding for Whole Genetic-Phenotypic Catalog
The National Institutes of Health is launching a program to understand every human gene's function better and generate a catalog of the molecular and cellular consequences of inactivating each gene. The Molecular Phenotypes of Null Alleles in Cells program, managed by the National Human Genome Research Institute, will be funded initially for five years for a total of $42.5 million, pending the availability of funds.
$25M: Funding for CRISPR-based Cell Therapies for Cancer
Scribe Therapeutics announced a strategic collaboration with Sanofi to use Scribe’s CRISPR genome editing technologies to enable genetic modification of novel natural killer (NK) cell therapies for cancer. The agreement grants Sanofi non-exclusive rights to Scribe’s proprietary CRISPR platform of wholly owned enzymes to create ex vivo NK cell therapies. Under the terms of the agreement, Scribe will receive $25 million in upfront payment and be eligible to potentially receive more than $1 billion in payments based on development and commercial milestones, as well as tiered royalties on net future sales on any products that may result from this research agreement.
$20.5M: Grant for Dementia Research
A team of researchers at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging was awarded a $20.5 million grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health. The P01 award exemplifies team science, with approximately 35 researchers across six different labs working on four main projects, all with a common theme. The main project will study the role of astrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
$20M: Equity Investment for AI-Based Drug Discovery and Development
CytoReason announced an extension of its multi-year partnership with Pfizer. Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will make a $20M equity investment for CytoReason’s artificial intelligence technology for Pfizer’s drug development programs, to have options to license CytoReason’s platform and disease models, and to fund additional project support in a deal worth up to $110M over the next five years. The new research agreement and investment will support the development of other disease models and create high-resolution models spanning several therapeutic areas.
$16M: Series A Funding for Life Sciences AI Infrastructure
Elucidata announced that it raised $16 million in a Series A fundraising. The newly infused capital will be used to deepen product capabilities in translational drug research and allied markets, scale go-to-market initiatives, and accelerate global expansion of operations. Elucidata's platform, Polly, provides R&D teams access to clean, curated biomolecular data that can be queried and analyzed over a graphical user interface or programmatically. Events of interest in life sciences are rare. Predicting these events is critically dependent on the availability of high-quality data to base the predictive model on, which is a key tenet of the data-centric approach.
$14M: Funding for Cancer-Specific Therapies
ImmunoScape announced that it raised $14M in new financing for its differentiated deep immunomics platform that utilizes the company’s proprietary combinatorial barcoding technology to discover and investigate rare cancer-specific T-cells at high resolution. ImmunoScape’s platform can simultaneously evaluate millions of T-cells in blood samples from hundreds of cancer patients to identify rare clinically relevant T-cell clones. Using computational biology and machine learning, ImmunoScape efficiently identifies novel T-cell therapy targets and TCR candidates.
$13.5M: Funding for Liquid Biopsy Cancer Testing
Swiss biotech company Hedera Dx will be launching a blood-based testing solution to profile cancer DNA circulating in the blood, helping patients access better treatments. To do this, the company has raised €14M in funding. In addition to launching commercially, the company will use the funding to implement the first phase of a large oncology real-world evidence clinical testing program. After a straightforward onboarding, laboratories can start running liquid biopsies using a laboratory assay and the Hedera Prime software, having a streamlined workflow through analytics, reporting, and therapy options.
$12M: Grant for Knockout Mouse Phenotyping Program
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have received a grant for more than $12 million from the National Institutes of Health for a third five-year phase of the Knockout Mouse Phenotyping Program (KOMP2). KOMP2 is part of the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium, a worldwide effort to create a mouse model for every protein-coding gene in the mouse genome and characterize each gene’s function. Baylor is one of three KOMP2 sites, along with the University of California, Davis and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. Each KOMP2 site expects to produce and characterize an additional 400 knockout mouse lines over the next five years.
$10M: Funding for Genomic Medicine
WhiteLab Genomics, a Y Combinator-backed AI-powered predictive software simulation platform for the design of gene and cell therapies, announced a $10 million funding round to revolutionize genomic therapy development using public and private data and in-house AI algorithms. The proceeds will be used to develop WhiteLab Genomics’ AI-based platform and target vectors, scale its R&D team, and fund expansion to the US. In addition, WhiteLab Genomics technology develops solutions to repair and replace defective sequences. The rising field of genomic medicine treats these pathological conditions at their source.
$8.3M: Award for HIV Diagnostics
An Emory University-led collaborative project has been awarded $8.3 million for the first of a five-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention award to implement Together TakeMeHome (TTMH), a national HIV self-testing program designed to increase awareness and diagnoses of HIV infections in the U.S. By early 2023, TTMH will begin distributing a free HIV self-test to people who enroll through its website and will be the largest nationwide mailed HIV self-testing program to date. The total amount of the award over five years is up to $41.5 million.
$8.2M: Grant for Cardiac Disease
The National Health Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health awarded a four-year, $8.2-million grant to researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Stanford Medicine, the University of Toronto, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to “map” the specific variations in more than 25 key cardiac disease genes that negatively affect heart function. Their newly formed CardioVar Consortium will generate a comprehensive atlas of “variant effect maps” to distinguish disease-causing variants from harmless ones. The goal is to illuminate the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular diseases, the leading causes of death and disability worldwide, and to improve real-time diagnosis and early treatment.
$8M: Grant for Rheumatic Fever Diagnostic Test
A collaborative network led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has received an $8 million grant from the Leducq Foundation to fund a project to identify and validate biomarkers for acute rheumatic fever (ARF). These biomarkers will serve as a basis for the world’s first sensitive and specific diagnostic test for ARF, which initiates a slow but progressive process of heart valve damage dubbed rheumatic heart disease. The collaboration of researchers—dubbed the Acute Rheumatic Fever Diagnosis Collaborative Network—expects their discoveries over the next five years to modernize ARF diagnosis and establish a robust platform for future research into the disease.
$7.9M: Grant for Radiation and Immunotherapy Research
Cleveland Clinic received a $7.9 million five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health to form one of three national centers as part of the newly established Radiation Oncology-Biology Integration Network. The centers will investigate the molecular mechanisms and treatment efficacy of radiation and immunotherapy combinations for bladder, head, and neck cancers. In collaboration with Emory University, Cleveland Clinic researchers and clinicians will lead the studies to develop new cancer treatment approaches by improving understanding of the drivers of efficacy. Specifically, the team will study radiotherapy in combination with antibody-drug conjugates and immune checkpoint inhibitors.
$6.8M: Grants for Geroscience Research
The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) and Hevolution Foundation announced a pilot, global research grant program that will help early-career investigators research health-extending therapeutics and treatments. The Hevolution/AFAR New Investigator Awards in Aging Biology and Geroscience Research will provide up to 18 three-year awards of US $375,000 each and will support research projects in the basic biology of aging or geroscience. Funding will be made available to investigators with labs across the globe, expanding the pipeline of researchers in aging. The Hevolution Foundation will also establish a Scientific Conferences Fund, managed by AFAR, to support aging-related conferences and scientific meetings for scientific exchange, networking, and collaboration worldwide. Please see their funding opportunities web page for more information.
$6M: Seed Funding for Advanced Real-World Health Data
CuriMeta announced a collaboration with BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis with a $6 million series seed funding round. The funding will allow CuriMeta's medical data experts to analyze, expand, and organize the aggregated data into multiple, secure, privacy-protecting datasets that researchers can use to advance our understanding of health and disease and develop lifesaving cures. The company will also deploy cutting-edge, privacy-protecting technologies that will allow data contributors, such as health systems, to know when and how the data they share via CuriMeta is being used.
$5.3M: Second Round Grant for Non-Invasive Vaccine Technology
Vaxxas will receive an AU $8.2 million second-round grant as part of the Australian Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative to support the manufacturing scale-up of its potentially game-changing technology that enables vaccines to be applied to the skin using a small patch. The Vaxxas HD-MAP uses an ultra-high-density array of micro projections—invisible to the human eye—applied to the skin as a patch to rapidly deliver a vaccine to the abundant immune cells immediately below the skin surface. The vaccination technology has the potential to fundamentally improve pandemic and routine vaccination through production efficiencies, breadth and speed of access, and population coverage.
$5M: Grant for Tuberculosis Research Center
Weill Cornell Medicine was awarded a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health to establish a new multi-institutional center for tuberculosis (TB) research and training for the next generation of TB investigators. The new center will operate under three major components: A development core will provide seed grants and training to researchers new to studying TB; a clinical core will work with international sites to help U.S.-based researchers conduct fieldwork overseas. Finally, a basic science core will fund technology transfer and training for working with the pathogen. All three center cores will prioritize recruiting more women and underrepresented minorities to TB research, bringing diverse perspectives to the field.
$3.8M: Funding for Voice-Based Diagnostics
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded an academic project using artificial intelligence to diagnose and treat diseases, including cancer and depression, based on a patient’s voice. The University of South Florida is the lead institution on the project in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, ten other institutions in the United States and Canada, and French-American AI biotech startup Owkin. The first year of the project includes $3.8 million from the NIH, with subsequent funding over the following three years contingent upon annual NIH appropriations by Congress that could bring the overall award to $14 million. Called Voice as a Biomarker of Health, machine learning models will be trained to spot diseases by detecting changes in the human voice. This project could empower doctors with a low-cost diagnostic tool alongside other clinical methods.
$2.7M: Grant for Pulmonary Hypertension AI
Eko announced that it was awarded a $2.7M Small Business Innovation Research Direct Phase II grant by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will fund the development of a machine learning algorithm that detects and stratifies pulmonary hypertension using phonocardiogram and electrocardiogram data provided by Eko’s smart stethoscopes. This award marks Eko’s fourth Small Business Innovation Research grant from the NIH, bringing their total funding to $6M. Eko’s FDA-cleared platform is used by hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals worldwide, allowing them to detect diseases earlier and with higher accuracy, diagnose more confidently, and manage treatment effectively.
$2.5M: Funding for Precision Medicine Genomics
A new Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research-led genomics project will advance precision medicine and personalized cancer treatment for Australians, thanks to over $2.5 million in funding from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF’s Genomics Health Futures Mission funding will support a team of 15 clinical and research partners to develop technology that enables rapid clinical translation, investigates cancer-related genes, and educates clinicians on interpreting and applying the data to improve patient health. The international team will aim to address some of the biggest barriers holding back the use of genomic data in clinical care and gain new insights into blood, breast, and ovarian cancers.
$2M: Grant for Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment
The National Cancer Institute issued a $2 million grant to Boston Cell Standards for the newly launched Consortium for Analytic Standardization in Immunohistochemistry (CASI). In an article published online in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine (DOI: 10.5858/arpa.2022-0031-RA), CASI was described as the new consortium for establishing industrywide immunohistochemistry (IHC) reference standards to improve test accuracy and reproducibility. Its mission is to integrate analytic reference standards into IHC, a test format widely used in surgical pathology to evaluate cancers in tissue samples and determine the correct treatment. CASI will conduct studies to determine appropriate analytic sensitivity thresholds for selected IHC tests, publish the data it collects, and then offer analytic sensitivity recommendations.
$2M: Award for Student Training Pipeline
The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health awarded the University of Oklahoma an expected $2 million over five years to develop a program to improve the representation of American Indian students in biomedical and cancer research. The program will provide a research training strategy in which American Indian high school students will engage in hands-on scientific research, emphasizing cancer research. The proposal received a perfect review score, referred to as an “Impact 10” by the NIH review panel, a rare triumph for grant proposals and a strong demonstration of the potential impact of the partnership between Oklahoma institutes and tribal partners.
$1.7M: Gift for Microbiome Research
The Madam Wang Lee Wah Memorial Fund gifted the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) a S$2.5 million gift to launch the Centre for Microbiome Medicine. The facility will focus its research on nutrition, metabolism, airway and environment, cancers, infections, and other neurological and skin diseases. Using human sample collections, advanced DNA sequencing, and laboratory experiments, researchers will look at how the microbiome causes various diseases like obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, and chronic lung diseases like bronchiectasis.
$1.7M: Cash Offer for Cancer Therapy License
METiS Therapeutics announced its license agreement with Voronoi, a Korean company focused on precision medicine. Under the agreement, METiS will receive an exclusive license to develop and commercialize Voronoi’s pan-RAF inhibitor, a form of cancer therapy, program worldwide. In exchange, Voronoi will receive up to $1.7 million in upfront cash and success-based near-term discovery milestones. Voronoi will also be eligible for success-based payments up to $480.5 million in development, regulatory and sales milestones, and tiered royalties based on annual net sales.
$1M: Funding for Microbiome-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases
The Ngee Ann Kongsi (Singapore) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Duke-NUS Medical School with a pledge of up to S$1.5 million to advance understanding in the emerging field of the human microbiome and its impact on the brain. With support from the newly established “Gut Bacteria To Treat Chronic Brain Diseases” Research Fund, researchers will identify specific bacteria and metabolites associated with neurodegenerative brain conditions. This research will enable the discovery of potential new therapies to modify or remove harmful metabolites and change the composition of gut bacteria to prevent the production of such toxins.
$600K: Series A Funding for Neuropathic Therapy Research
iQure Pharma confirmed the completion of early closing as part of its series A investment, which will support ongoing research into non-opioid therapeutics for neuropathic pain. iQure Pharma has secured over $600K in commitments to advance the preclinical development of iQure’s novel therapeutics, iQ-007 and iQ-008. Both compounds are supported by non-dilutive funding through the NIH epilepsy (ETSP) and NIH pain (PSPP) programs. The NIH ETSP shows that iQ-007 can treat pain, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases. The NIH PSPP advanced iQ-008 to the next stage in the preclinical screening.
$398K: Grant for Glioblastoma Treatment
Monon Bioventures has received a one-year, $398,314 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Cancer Institute to demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing a glioblastoma therapeutic created at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy. Matosevic’s work indicates that human immune “natural killer” cells can be “armed” to attack glioblastomas specifically. Matosevic disclosed his glioblastoma treatment to the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, which has applied for a patent to protect the intellectual property.
$24K: Grant for Genomic Research
Beckman Coulter Life Sciences announced a call for registrations for its SPRI Grants for Genomic Research. Reinforcing its dedication to providing streamlined genomic workflow solutions, the company will award up to eight grants in 2022 consisting of USD 3,000 (or local currency equivalent) in genomics catalog products from Beckman Coulter Life Sciences. Grant program research areas include nucleic acid extraction, liquid biopsy, long-read sequencing, and genomics applications. Winners will be evaluated based on criteria that include research objectives, genomic reagent requests, and how the product would be used in the field of research. Applications will be accepted now through December 15, 2022.
Grants for Structural Science and Crystallography Enhancement
The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) announced the launch of new Engagement Grants in their latest initiative to advance structural science and crystallography for the public benefit. Scientists in this field discover and develop new semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, batteries, catalysts, and more. CCDC is a UK-based charity that maintains and curates the world’s database of over one million experimental small molecule crystal structures and provides software for researchers working in this field to search, visualize, analyze, and learn. The grants cover costs to produce resources or activities that will increase schools and public engagement in crystallography and structural science.
Undisclosed Funding for Drug Discovery and Delivery
Cresset, UK-based drug discovery and design software developer, has secured investment from Scottish Equity Partners, a technology-focused growth equity firm. The funding will support Cresset’s vision to be a world-leading software and services provider for accelerating the discovery and delivery of new drugs. Cresset’s computational methods enable its customers to accelerate drug discovery workflows by predicting molecular interactions and enabling the prioritization of drug candidates. With this investment, Cresset will accelerate its drive for exceptional talent to continue broadening the science platform.