Follow the Money: NIH Backs Whole Body Human Cell Mapping, MIT and Harvard Investigate Pediatric Cancers, More

October 26, 2022

October 26, 2022 | Funding for high-performance computing to study pathogens and virus-related diseases, high-resolution imaging technology for vagus nerve tract organ mapping, a three-channel bioimpedance and electrocardiogram wearable cotton vest that detects worsening heart conditions, and more.

$500M: Funding for Life Sciences Computational Technology 

Cleveland Clinic and IBM are building on a 10-year partnership to fundamentally advance the pace of biomedical research through high-performance computing. The Cleveland Clinic-IBM Discovery Accelerator is a joint center that leverages Cleveland Clinic’s medical expertise with the technology expertise of IBM, including its leadership in quantum computing. The center, supported by a $500 million investment from the State of Ohio, Jobs Ohio, and Cleveland Clinic, brings together a team focused on studying, preparing, and protecting against emerging pathogens and virus-related diseases. Researchers leverage advanced computational technology through Discovery Accelerator to expedite critical research into treatments and vaccines. 

$150M: Private Placement for Clinical and Technology Advancements

Recursion announced that it has entered into a stock purchase agreement to sell an aggregate of approximately 15.3 million shares of its Class A common stock in a private placement. Gross proceeds of the private placement are expected to be roughly $150 million, led by Kinnevik with a $75 million investment, before deducting placement agent fees and other expenses payable by Recursion. Recursion currently intends to use the net proceeds, together with existing cash and cash equivalents, for general corporate purposes, which may include strategic investments in advancing existing clinical and preclinical programs—including Recursion's new clinical program in AXIN1/APC mutant cancers with an initial focus in hepatocellular carcinoma and ovarian cancer for which a Phase 2 trial is being planned—digital chemistry technologies, automated chemical micro synthesis technologies, industrialized validation and translation, and scientific and technical personnel.

$63M: Funding Opportunity for Maternal Health 

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) shared details about a forthcoming $63 million funding opportunity for comparative clinical effectiveness research studies to reduce inequities in maternal health care and outcomes. PCORI will begin accepting Letters of Intent from prospective applicants in January 2023. Studies may focus on pre- or postnatal care and should include at least one of the following interventions: health system strategies to address disparities in maternal health outcomes and strategies to address social determinants of health. Each award will have a total funding opportunity of up to $21 million. 

$60M: Funding Investment for Pediatric Cancer 

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced the largest academic collaboration of its kind to transform and accelerate the identification of vulnerabilities in pediatric cancers and translate them into better treatments. This partnership is supported by a new joint funding investment by all three institutions of more than $60 million over five years. This collaboration is designed to address critical gaps in knowledge related to the biological basis of childhood cancer and how it can be treated more effectively. The Pediatric Cancer Dependencies Accelerator project will focus on three core disease areas (brain tumors, hematological malignancies, and solid tumors) by leveraging pan-cancer expertise in data science, functional genomics, and large-scale drug screening. 

$40M: Series A Funding for Ultra-High Plexity and Targeted Biological Information 

Pleno announced the close of $40 million in Series A financing led by Deerfield Management Company with participation by Foresite Capital. Pleno’s unique enabling technology, Hypercoding, leverages signal processing techniques derived from the telecom industry to deliver ultra-high plexity targeted biological information—including DNA, RNA, methylation, and proteomic content at high throughput, increased precision, and performance. The newly raised funds will accelerate the development of Pleno’s Hypercoding instrument platform, RAPTOR, which is slated for early customer access in 2023, with full availability in 2024. RAPTOR is expected to deliver ultra-high target multiplexing combined with a high dynamic range and very low detection limit while still processing anywhere from 8 to 384 samples per run. 

$22M: Series A Funding for Data Analysis Product Development 

Seqera Labs announced that it raised €22 million in Series A funding. With this investment, Seqera aims to move beyond scientific workflows to encompass tool development, data management, reporting, infrastructure deployment, and interactive computing. The additional funding will help the company bolster its team and expand its product portfolio to cover the entire data analysis lifecycle. The raise builds on the €4.4 million raised in seed financing last year, plus several grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan. 

$21.5M: Series B Funding for Tumor-Targeted Fluorescent Imaging 

Vergent Bioscience announced the close of a $21.5 million Series B financing to advance the clinical development of VGT-309, the company’s targeted fluorescent imaging agent that enables surgeons to see previously undetected or difficult-to-find tumors in real time, ensuring all tumor tissue is removed during open, minimally invasive (MIS), and robotic-assisted surgical procedures. VGT-309’s imaging component is the near-infrared (NIR) dye indocyanine green, which is compatible with all commercially available NIR intraoperative imaging systems that support MIS technologies and is the preferred dye to minimize confounding background autofluorescence. Funds from the Series B financing will also enable Vergent to expand the development of VGT-309 to colorectal, gastrointestinal, and breast cancer. 

$15.75M: Contact for Vagus Nerve Organ Mapping 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $15.75 million contract to researchers led by Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and Duke University to apply electrical stimulation to the nervous system to develop new treatment options for hypertension, heart failure, and gastrointestinal disorders. The NIH contract—Reconstruct Vagal Anatomy—calls for researchers to map the body’s vagus nerve using the latest high-resolution imaging technology. The team’s goal will be to show precisely how vagus nerve tracts map to organs. The research team will conduct multimodal, multiscale imaging of 100 human vagus nerves from cadaveric donors of the CWRU Anatomical Gift Program, using multiple 3D-imaging technologies, such as MRI and microCT. 

$13.6M: Funding for Accelerating New Medical Treatments 

The National Institute for Health Research Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre has received a £12 million funding boost. Over the next five years, researchers will work to improve early diagnosis of pulmonary vascular disease, care pathways for patients living with human immunodeficiency virus, outcomes for cardiovascular disease patients, and develop new vaccines for infectious diseases. The new funding will also provide opportunities for a diverse range of professionals to undertake research, expanding research expertise in allied health professionals—such as physiotherapists, radiologists, and dietitians—as well as in doctors and nurses. 

$10.7M: Grant for Lewy Body Dementia 

The National Institutes of Health awarded a $10.7 million five-year renewal grant to Cleveland Clinic to expand a national research consortium focused on improving the diagnosis and treatments for Lewy body dementia. Supported by the renewal grant, The Dementia with Lewy Bodies Consortium will develop new tools to accurately diagnose Lewy body dementia and related cognitive issues linked to Parkinson’s disease. The multi-center study will use longitudinal data from the expanded patient cohort to identify biomarkers that can assist with diagnosis, detect disease progression, and ultimately measure response to treatment. 

$6.6M: Funding for Corneal Nerve Map 

The National Eye Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, provided $6.6 million to the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function at the University of New England, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to map out the corneal nerves to develop new, more effective treatments for corneal pain. The first part of the study will involve comprehensively mapping the nerves innervating the cornea. Later studies will explore how injury to those nerves impacts the brain’s emotional responses to trauma via the limbic system, the area of the brain that regulates emotion and behavioral responses. 

$4.9M: Funding for Accelerating Digital Twins in European Healthcare 

The European Commission provided the Ecosystem for Digital Twins in Healthcare Coordination and Support Action with €5 million in funding to create an environment that will accelerate digital twins in European healthcare. The project will also prepare a strategic roadmap for broader development, integration, and uptake of digital twins. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-life object, allowing a risk-free setting to enable precision testing of huge numbers of treatments, allowing for better ‘real-world’ treatment and minimizing health risks to the patient when receiving care. The Virtual Physiological Human Institute will lead the project. 

$4M: Funding for Whole Body Human Cell Mapping 

The National Institutes of Health launched the Human BioMolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP) to develop a framework for mapping the human body cell by cell. Now, a team—led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)—is joining the national program and will be the first HuBMAP group responsible for mapping the human lymphatic system at the molecular level. The BIDMC-led lymphatics HuBMAP consortium, also known as a tissue mapping center, will receive $4 million over four years to collect and analyze a range of lymphatic tissues from diverse tissue donors. In addition, HuBMAP findings will be shared on an open data platform for other HuBMAP members and the global research community. 

$3.9M: Grant for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, awarded a five-year R01 grant of $3.9 million to researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute, part of City of Hope, Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on a new study to better understand nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The prevalence of this disease is rising in American children, with kids of Latino ancestry being hit disproportionately hard by the disease. The study will examine and characterize the cargo of circulating extracellular vesicles in NAFLD and determine what factors are different in kids with NAFLD compared to those without the disease. 

$2.3M: Grant for Wearable Heart Monitoring Device 

The National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute awarded a projected four-year, $2.3 million grant to a team of the University of Massachusetts Amherst-led researchers to develop a wearable vest system monitoring heart failure patients in their homes and detect worsening conditions. The multidisciplinary team will develop an innovative three-channel bioimpedance and electrocardiogram monitor with reusable, dry, and flexible electrodes embedded in a wearable cotton vest. Coupled with a smartphone application and cloud server, the system will collect, transmit and monitor physiological data that will be used to develop a clinical decision-support algorithm to accurately detect early acute decompensated heart failure and identify patients who may need prompt medical attention. The vest only needs to be worn for five minutes a day. 

$500K: Award for AI-Facilitated Organoid Models 

A multi-disciplinary team from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to realize their vision of scalable production of high-quality organoids. The team’s approach involves engaging mechano-transduction pathways to regulate manufacturing. The mechano-transduction will be controlled by bioprinting the organoid phenotype, and machine learning models will identify signature cytoskeletal states associated with the phenotype. 

$500K: Award for Healthy Aging Research 

The San Diego Nathan Shock Center of Excellence, a collaboration between the Salk Institute, UC San Diego, and Sanford Burnham Prebys, received a $500,000 supplement from the National Institutes of Health to enroll participants from the Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging—one of the longest, continuously NIH-funded studies in existence—into their own clinical cohort to study differences in how individuals age. Scientists at the center will collect skin samples from the living Rancho Bernardo Study participants whose individual trajectories of aging have been followed and measured for many years. Using stem cell technology, their approach will allow scientists to understand cellular drivers of aging that can potentially be targeted as personalized interventions to improve resilience and increase health span (the number of years of healthy life). 

Undisclosed Funding for Nasopharyngeal Cancer Research 

A team of researchers led by A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore, the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore, and the National Cancer Centre Singapore, was awarded the prestigious Open Fund-Large Collaborative Grant to establish an integrated research program to improve the early diagnosis and survival rate of patients with nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). The program will focus on three collaborative studies: genome sequencing analysis, screening to evaluate the effectiveness of biomarkers in identifying high-risk individuals, and a multi-arm platform clinical trial named RIBBON (tReatment optImisation By eBv stratificatiOn in Npc), testing several individualized strategies using DNA test results.