Follow the Money: 3D Telepresense, Transplant Rejection Trials

December 2, 2021 | Clinical trials for lung transplant rejection and sickle cell disease, immersive 3D telepresense for remote patient engagement, and precision dosing technology.

$650M: HHS Investment in Diagnostics Manufacturing

As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing commitment to increasing access to COVID-19 testing for Americans and to further strengthen domestic manufacturing of needed tests, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will invest $650 million from the American Rescue Plan to strengthen manufacturing capacity for quick, high-quality diagnostic testing through rapid point-of-care molecular tests and increase Americans’ access to them. As at-home testing increases, the need for follow-up testing in health care settings will likely grow. For example, if someone buys an over-the-counter rapid antigen test at their local pharmacy to take at home and tests positive, they may seek out a health care provider who would conduct another test to confirm that result. This new investment will help ensure tests like these are readily available across the country and can provide results quickly.

$370M: Series B for Machine Learning Biology Platform

Generate Biomedicines, whose machine learning-powered Generative Biology platform can rapidly invent new drugs across a wide range of protein modalities and previously undiscoverable protein therapeutics, has raised $370 Million in a Series B financing to advance the development of its novel drug generation platform. The Generate platform can rapidly generate antibodies, peptides, enzymes, cell and gene therapies to meet any therapeutic need. This approach enables Generate to create previously impossible therapeutics and to do so with unprecedented speed and scale. The financing round included the company’s founder, Flagship Pioneering, along with several institutional co-investors, including: a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the Alaska Permanent Fund, Altitude Life Science Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Morningside Ventures, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. New capital will enable the company to evolve its technology platform, rapidly scale the organization, and advance multiple programs toward IND

$156M: Series B for Engineered T-Regulatory Cell Therapies

Quell Therapeutics has raised $156 million in an oversubscribed Series B financing. The financing round was co-led by Jeito Capital, Ridgeback Capital Investments, SV Health Investors and Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC with participation from founding investor Syncona. New investors include British Patient Capital through its Future Fund: Breakthrough program, Janus Henderson Investors, Monashee Investment Management, Point72 and funds managed by Tekla Capital Management LLC. Proceeds from the financing will be used to fund the LIBERATE Phase 1/2 clinical trial of QEL-001, a first-in-class antigen-specific multi-modular CAR-Treg cell therapy candidate designed to prevent organ rejection in liver transplant patients by inducing durable immune tolerance and eliminating the need for lifelong immunosuppression. QEL-001 is on-track to become the first multi-modular engineered CAR-Treg cell therapy in clinical development, with patient recruitment expected to begin before the end of the year. Funds will also advance Quell’s pipeline in core therapeutic areas of transplantation, neuroinflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases and accelerate the development of Quell’s autologous multi-modular engineered Treg platform, and further develop an allogeneic CAR-Treg platform 

$143.5M: HHS Funds to Bolster Vaccination

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced $143.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding to expand community-based efforts to conduct tailored local outreach about vaccines, build vaccine confidence and address barriers to vaccination in their communities. The funding supports two programs in which award recipients will develop regional and local partnerships to reach unvaccinated individuals, including pregnant women and people from underserved and high-risk communities, to help bolster COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The first program is a new $66.5 million funding opportunity to support community-based organizations that will provide information and education on COVID-19 vaccines to the medically vulnerable or underserved, including racial and ethnic minority groups with low vaccination rates. The second program consists of $77 million to award nine additional community-based organizations under the previously announced funding opportunity to mobilize community outreach workers to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. 

$100M: Series F for Cloud R&D Platform

Benchling has raised $100 million in Series F funding at a $6.1 billion valuation. The round was co-led by new investor Franklin Templeton and existing investor Altimeter Capital and joined by new investors Tiger Global and Lone Pine Capital, as well as existing investors. Benchling will use the funding to continue investing in product development and global expansion, particularly its presence in EMEA.

$60M: Seed Round for Protein Degrader Therapeutics

Avilar Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on extracellular protein degradation, announced a $60 million seed financing from founding investor RA Capital Management. Avilar is creating a novel class of protein degrader therapeutics designed to target disease-causing extracellular proteins, extending the reach of protein degradation beyond initial degraders that target intracellular proteins. Avilar has built a proprietary technology platform to develop novel extracellular protein degraders called ATACs, or ASGPR Targeting Chimeras. ATACs harness a natural process through which endogenous proteins are internalized into hepatocytes via the asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR) and degraded. Designed as bi-functional molecules, ATACs comprise a ligand that binds to a target protein, conjugated to a second ligand that binds to ASGPR. ATACs work by binding to and shuttling disease-causing proteins from circulation to the hepatocyte endolysosome, where the unwanted proteins are degraded. Proceeds from the $60 million financing have been allocated to developing Avilar’s ATAC degrader platform and to systematically applying this platform to create a pipeline of ATAC therapeutics. 

$45M: Seed Round for Plant-Based Peptides

Nuritas, a biotechnology company revolutionizing the discovery and development of plant-based bioactive peptides, has closed a $45 million Series B funding round. The investment, led by Chicago-based Cleveland Avenue, LLC, includes Grosvenor’s Wheatsheaf Group, the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF), Singapore-based Vertex Holdings, Nutresa Ventures/ Veronorte and CJ. Cultivian Sandbox Ventures and VisVires New Protein, who led previous rounds, also participated. Other early investors include U2’s Bono and The Edge, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Ali Partovi. Total funding to date is $75 million. The new funding will accelerate Nuritas’ global expansion and support its mission to unlock the power of nature to make many of the products we consume daily healthier, safer, and more sustainable. Randall Lewis, managing director of Cleveland Avenue, LLC and Stephan Dolezalek, executive director of Grosvenor’s Wheatsheaf Group will join Nuritas’ Board of Directors. Nuritas has also grown its Advisory Board with Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico and board member at Amazon, Joerg Ohle of Bayer’s Global Consumer Health division, and Bruce German, professor and chemist of food science and technology at the University of California, Davis, and the director of its Foods for Health Institute.

$40M: Series A for AI-Driven Drug Discovery, Robotics Lab

DeepCure has closed a $40 million Series A financing round led by Morningside Ventures, with participation from existing investors TLV Partners, Sapir Venture Partners, and Benon Group Ltd. The Company has raised a total of $47 million in financing since its inception. DeepCure is charting a new frontier in drug development using its AI-driven drug discovery platform and automated, robotic laboratory. The Company is developing several novel preclinical candidates across different “undruggable” classes, ranging from polypharmacology programs to protein-protein interactions and previously “impossible” specificity challenges critical in various indications in areas of high unmet medical need. With shorter timelines to develop the highest-quality drug candidate, DeepCure’s technology ensures the discovery and development of novel, small molecule drugs that were previously undiscoverable using conventional methods. The proceeds from the Series A financing will be used to expand DeepCure’s pipeline with five additional oncology programs and develop an automated robotic wet lab to fulfill its vision of developing drugs that are fully designed, synthesized, and tested by AI. The funding will also be used to double the headcount of its current drug discovery scientists and technologists next year, including a global expansion with the launch of two new sites in Greece and Israel.

$35M: Series C for Next-Gen R&D Cloud Platform

Synthace has raised $35 million in Series C funding. The investment will fuel commercial and go-to-market growth as Synthace continues to radically reinvent the full value chain of life sciences R&D. The company also plans to expand its senior leadership team in the U.S., with new vice presidents of marketing and sales joining the U.S.-based CEO.

$35M: Milestone Payment for Anti-TGFβ mAb XOMA Corporation has announced that NIS793, an anti-TGFβ monoclonal antibody licensed from the Company, has advanced to the Phase 3 development stage, triggering a $35 million milestone payment from Novartis. The Phase 3 trial (NCT04935359) is designed to assess the efficacy and safety of NIS793 in combination with gemcitabine/nab-paclitaxel versus gemcitabine/nab-paclitaxel and placebo, in first-line metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (mPDAC). In July, Novartis announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Orphan Drug Designation to NIS793 in combination with standard of care chemotherapy for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

$33M: Gynecological Imaging Platform

Illumigyn has closed its latest investment round, raising $33 million to date. The current investment round includes the Yozma Group Korea and Ubicom Holdings Japan. The funding will enable the company to accelerate its plans to bring cutting-edge gynecological imaging to women across the globe, starting this month with deployments in the United States, United Arab Emirates, India, Singapore, and South Korea. As part of its vision to expand access to vital care for women worldwide, illumigyn developed a complete platform featuring the Gynescope System, a revolutionary “gynecology endoscope” and cloud platform service with an accompanying mobile application. The first FDA-cleared remote gynecological platform, the Gynescope, digitally documents the cervix, vagina, and external genitalia. High-quality resolution and superior magnification enhance details beyond the capabilities of traditional cervix exams, enabling more accurate pap smears.

$25M: Series B for Skincare Diagnostics

PathologyWatch, the leading digital lab and pathology platform for dermatologists, has raised $25M in Series B financing with participation from Ceros Capital Markets, Rock Creek Capital, SpringTide, Spark Growth Ventures, Blueprint Health, Blackbrook Management Group, and existing investors. With the new funding, PathologyWatch will broaden its outreach to dermatologists and conduct further research into skincare diagnostics and AI, allowing patients to receive faster diagnoses and more equitable access to dermatopathology services while enabling labs to work more efficiently and cost-effectively. Additionally, the funding will support operations as the business expands across the country, adding new labs in Texas, Florida, and Arizona. 

$22M: Clinical Trial for Lung Transplant Rejection

Physicians at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston have received a seven-year, $22 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help lead a multicenter clinical trial evaluating whether a novel immunosuppressant can reduce the risk of organ rejection after a lung transplant. NIAID will oversee the phase 2 clinical trial through its Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation in Children and Adults (CTOT-CA) consortium, which conducts studies designed to improve short- and long-term survival of both transplanted organs and transplant recipients. The new trial will evaluate an immune-suppressing antibody and involve 16 medical institutions in North America. It will be one of the largest such studies conducted in the lung transplant field, according to the lead researchers from Washington University and Harvard Medical School. 

$17.5M: Clinical Trial Grant for Sickle Cell Disease

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland has received the largest research trial grant in its history to launch an innovative clinical trial that aims to cure sickle cell disease. The study, which plans to enroll its first patient later this year, will use CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology on patients’ own blood stem cells to correct the mutated gene that causes the debilitating disorder. Benioff Oakland researchers have received $17 million to support the 4-year trial, in two grants of $8.4 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and $8.6 million from the NIH Cure Sickle Cell Initiative, supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). This trial is the first to apply CRISPR-Cas9 technology in humans and is part of a UC research consortium led by UCSF with UCLA and UC Berkeley. Researchers are recruiting patients for treatment in Oakland and Los Angeles, beginning with up to six adults with sickle cell disease. If found to be safe and effective, it will expand to enroll three adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old. Seven patients are expected to be treated in Oakland and two at UCLA. It is the first time clinical researchers have attempted to correct a harmful beta-globin gene mutation in a patient's own cells with non-virally delivered CRISPR gene-correction tools, according to Mark Walters, MD, a professor of pediatrics at UCSF and principal investigator of the clinical trial and gene editing project.

$17M: Precision Dosing

Closed Loop Medicine has closed £13 million GBP (c. $17million USD) of new investment from a range of top UK and European venture capital investors. The money has been raised to finance its personalised drug + digital therapy (DTx) combination products which are being developed to improve outcomes for patients and clinicians through precision dosing. Round led by Ananda Impact Ventures and BGF, joined by a strong syndicate of investors including LifeArc, Longwall, Meltwind, IQ Capital, Downing Ventures and Cambridge Angels. The financing was oversubscribed, and investment will fund further platform and product development. Closed Loop Medicine has established a proprietary platform for the creation of drug plus digital combination products, the next generation of patient centric pharmaceuticals. The company has two products in clinical development to treat insomnia and hypertension and a pipeline of future combination products in other therapeutic areas. This financing will accelerate the development, registration and commercialization of its platform and precision dosing products

$16.5M: IPO Pricing for ECG Telemedicine

HeartBeam, a developmental stage digital healthcare company with a proprietary ECG telemedicine technology to bring new capabilities to cardiovascular disease, has announced the pricing of its initial public offering of 2,750,000 units, each consisting of (i) one share of common stock and (ii) one warrant to purchase a share of common stock, at a public offering price per unit of $6.00. The warrants have an exercise price of $6.00 per share and are exercisable for a period of five years after the issuance date. All units are being offered by HeartBeam, Inc. In addition, HeartBeam, Inc. has granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase an additional 412,500 shares of its common stock and/or warrants to purchase up to an additional 412,500 of its common stock, at the initial public offering price, less the underwriting discounts and commissions. 

$15.5M: Series B for Robotics in Pathology

Clarapath, a robotics company aimed at catalyzing change in the way pathology laboratories process human and animal tissues, announced a follow-on financing, extending its Series B round with an additional $15.5 million in funding, following the previous close of $16 million in Series B funding. The round included The 4100 Group (Investment Arm of Delta Dental), East Post Road Ventures (Investment Arm of White Plains Hospital), Epiphron Capital, Northwell Ventures, P5 Health Ventures, and participation from other strategic organizations. This brings the total raised to date by Clarapath to more than $38 million. Clarapath is automating processes around the way tissue is processed onto glass slides via “sectioning,” or cutting a cross-section of the tissue specimen. 

$15M: Seed Round for Biotech Ventures

Home Biosciences, Europe's first venture builder fully dedicated to biotech, announced a $15 million Seed financing led by Redmile Group and Sofinnova Partners. Home Biosciences is the partner of choice for academics and scientists to transform their innovation into life changing therapies for patients. Every step of the way, Home Biosciences works together with leading scientific teams to build and grow sustainable businesses, by assembling the right expertise and structure. Each project is housed in a dedicated entity, a subsidiary, fully financed by Home Biosciences and led by teams entirely focused on the day-to-day execution of its projects with oversight from the Home Biosciences core management team. Proceeds from the financing will be used to accelerate the development of Home Biosciences' pipeline while further strengthening its team. Specifically, the round will allow the company to advance its first venture, One Biosciences, as well as build a second one and a strong pipeline of projects. One Biosciences is focused on generating precision medicines by leveraging the power of single-cell technologies. 

$12.2M: NHGRI Grant for RNA Study

The National Human Genome Research Institute has funded a multi-institutional Center of Excellence in Genome Sciences (CEGS), based at Weill Cornell Medicine, to develop new tools to study the major product of the human genome, called ribonucleic acid (RNA), and determine how RNA functions to orchestrate the unique patterns of protein expression seen in human tissues and in disease. The new CEGS, funded by a five-year, $12.2 million grant, will be led by Dr. Samie R. Jaffrey, the Greenberg-Starr Professor of Pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and includes investigators at Duke, the University of California at San Francisco, New York Institute of Technology and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

$12.1M: BARDA for Viral/Bacterial Differentiation

Inflammatix announced a contract extension of $12.1 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The funding is part of a BARDA contract worth up to $72 million if all options are exercised. The new funding will be used for continued development and clinical studies to support FDA clearance of the ViraBac EZ test, which reads gene expression patterns in the immune system to identify whether a suspected infection is bacterial or viral. ViraBac EZ is intended to help physicians quickly and accurately determine whether to prescribe antibiotics in ambulatory settings. The test will use a capillary blood sample, ideal for use in primary care, urgent care and other outpatient clinical settings. The funding also supports development of the sample-to-answer, point-of-care system on which ViraBac EZ, and all Inflammatix’s tests, are run. The system is designed to read mRNA and analyze the results using a machine learning algorithm to produce answers in less than 30 minutes.

$5M: Seed Funding for Telepresense Patient Engagement

LifeVoxel.AI, a San Diego-based medical platform for AI and Visualization, announced it has raised a $5 million seed funding. LifeVoxel’s patented technologies empower instant and ubiquitous access to interactive imaging studies and data, with zero latency and zero client footprint, rendering them at 4K image quality. The platform enables unprecedented, real-time, immersive 3D telepresence interactivity for remote patient engagement and the direct integration of AI diagnostic support into daily physician workflows from any web-enabled device. Additionally, the platform stores not just images, but diagnostic annotations and reports, data critical for the ongoing development of AI diagnostic applications. LifeVoxel’s HIPAA compliant SaaS platform, Prescient, is a leap in enterprise medical imaging technology, enabling 4D interactive intelligent views of medical images over the Internet and empowers physicians to access, analyze and manipulate imaging studies in real-time, turning any web-enabled device into a radiology workstation. 

$4.3M: Sepsis Detection for Soldiers

Prenosis, a precision diagnostics company transforming clinical diagnosis with predictive intelligence, announced that the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a U.S. Department of Defense agency that confronts emerging threats, awarded the company up to $4.3 million for further development of point-of-care technology for the early detection of sepsis for warfighters in the field. Prenosis has developed its Immunix Emergency Point-of-Care (ePOC) system to meet the critical need of sepsis detection for warfighters. The Immunix ePOC system is one of Prenosis’ advanced platforms for predictive and precision diagnostics, or prenostics, which seek to more accurately and cost-effectively predict disease. 

$3.5M: Seed Funding for Molecule-Generating AI

Variational AI, developer of state-of-the-art generative AI technology to redefine the economics of drug development by accelerating the discovery of novel and optimized small molecules, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding. The investment round was led by Flying Fish Ventures, Alliance of Angels and A&E Investments, with participation from Lip-Bu Tan and Amarjit Gill, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, investors and advisors. Variational AI’s Enki algorithm learns from a training set of molecules screened against drug targets from both experimental and computational sources and then generates novel molecular structures with multiple pre-defined parameters/properties optimized to avoid common causes of drug attrition. This optimization is performed in parallel and can deliver results in months versus years and requires significantly less data than competing AI offerings. The seed funding will enable Variational AI to accelerate existing discovery programs for COVID-19, cancer and other disease areas. The company will also utilize the new capital to hire additional leaders in medicinal chemistry, cheminformatics, and machine learning, and recruit a Scientific Advisory Board. 

$3.15M: NCI Grant for Liver Cancer Platform

The National Cancer Institute has awarded Mount Sinai researchers $3.15 million in grant funding to assess the potential of a multidisciplinary drug development platform to identify new biological targets for precision-based therapeutics for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The platform includes precision mouse models, tumor 3D organoids, and a proprietary library of small molecule inhibitors. HCC is the most common type of liver cancer among adults. By combining an innovative drug design with a patient-derived platform developed by academic laboratories at Mount Sinai, the researchers hope to identify new leads for HCC drug development. The co-Principal Investigators are Arvin Dar, PhD, Professor of Oncological Sciences, and Pharmacological Sciences; Ernesto Guccione, PhD, Professor of Oncological Sciences, and Pharmacological Sciences; and Amaia Lujambio, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncological Sciences, and Medicine (Liver Diseases), at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Through preliminary studies, they have identified a strong lead, WNTinib, a novel small molecule inhibitor that has the ability to reduce the growth of tumors.

$2.45M: Series A for Respiratory Device

Teal Bio has raised a $2.45 million Series A financing led by Caligan Partners LP. The funding will allow the company to complete the development and regulatory approval of its innovative, reusable respiratory protection platform, which offers significant improvements in comfort, communication and conservation in personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. Teal Bio’s lead product, expected in 2022, is a reusable, patent-pending respirator platform that is safe, cost-efficient, transparent, and creates significantly less waste than traditional single-use masks, including N95s. The body, which is made of transparent medical-grade silicone, can be sanitized with simple alcohol wipes and reused. The replaceable filters—which are made of a substantially biodegradable blend that creates less waste and takes up less space than disposable N95 masks—snap in place and are replaced daily. Teal Bio’s Series A financing was led by Caligan Partners LP and included continued participation from seed investor Innocreative Capital. 

$1.8M: Seed Round for Cancer Drug Delivery Chip

BioSapien has raised $1.8M in seed round funding led by global venture capital investor SOSV. Co-investors in the round include Hikma Ventures, Microventures, Infinity Capital Ventures, JPIN VCATS, Side Door Ventures, and other high-net worth angels and investors. In addition to the seed round funding, a non-dilutive grant of $256K from the National Science Foundation will accelerate the development of BioSapien’s patented product, MediChip: a 3D printed biodegradable mesh chip designed to deliver cancer drugs directly to the tumor site while reducing side effects. Pre-clinical research shows that in comparison to systemic chemotherapy, MediChip mitigates systemic side-effects through localized controlled release. For cancer indications, it has the potential to improve the patient’s quality of care and life. It is designed to be a first-line treatment option for stage III locally advanced gastrointestinal cancer patients during surgery for adjuvant chemotherapy delivery. 

$400,000: SIBR for CAR-T Immunotherapy

Strand Therapeutics, a privately held biotech company developing next-generation, programmable mRNA therapeutics beyond vaccines, has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an off-the-shelf chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) immunotherapy based on the company’s mRNA technology for the treatment of B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The total funding amount awarded to Strand is approximately $400,000.