Follow the Money: PCORI Opens Nine Research Funding Opportunities, Novel Transcriptome-Wide Profiling Research, More

January 24, 2023 | Funding for preclinical development and clinical proof-of-concept therapeutic studies, comparative clinical effectiveness research to help patients and other stakeholders make better-informed health choices, clinical decision support expansion for diagnostic and surveillance tools, and more.

$725M: Investment for Therapeutic Nucleic Acid Manufacturing 

Agilent Technologies announced it is investing approximately $725M to double the manufacturing capacity of therapeutic nucleic acids in response to demand for the company’s high-quality active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). Therapeutic nucleic acids, also called therapeutic oligonucleotides or oligos, are short DNA and RNA molecules that serve as the API for drugs targeting a growing number of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rare and infectious diseases. Agilent’s therapeutic oligo facilities follow current good manufacturing practices, and the expanded facility will employ advanced automation and engineering enhancements. 

$308.5M: Funding for Comparative Clinical Effectiveness Research Studies 

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has opened the application periods for nine funding opportunities that offer up to $308.5M in total funding. The latest PCORI Funding Announcements (PFAs) include up to $285M for comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare healthcare options to help patients and other stakeholders make better-informed health choices. The Broad Pragmatic Studies—PFA's largest funding announcement—seeks proposals for CER studies aligned with PCORI’s National Priorities for Health. One PFA offers up to $63M for studies comparing interventions addressing clinical conditions and social determinants of health to improve maternal health outcomes. Two other Targeted PFAs seek proposals for CER studies focused on brief interventions for adolescent alcohol use and prevention and early identification and treatment of delirium in older adults. Finally, five other PFAs aim to accelerate the movement of evidence toward practical use in improving health care and health outcomes, enhance the science of research engagement, and strengthen scientific rigor in research. Details on the most recent funding announcements are on PCORI’s website

$300M: Funding for Cutting-Edge Biotechnology Medical Institute 

The University of Virginia (UVA) announced plans to launch a biotechnology institute that positions UVA at the forefront of cutting-edge medicine. The new institute is made possible due to a $100 million gift from the couple after whom it will be named, a substantial initial investment of $50 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia, and $150 million from UVA. The Paul and Diane Manning Institute of Biotechnology is expected to become a major hub for research and manufacturing centered around UVA’s new state-of-the-art biotech facility. The Paul and Diane Manning Institute of Biotechnology will help find new treatments and cures for even the most challenging and devastating diseases. Its foci include cellular therapy, gene therapy, nanotechnology, and drug delivery. The new institute will also allow UVA to expand its clinical trial offerings, allowing more people to access potential treatments as they are being developed—sometimes years before they become widely available. 

$100M: Series B Extension for Proof-of-Concept Therapeutic Studies 

Metagenomi announced the closing of a Series B extension financing. This $100M financing brings the total Series B proceeds to $275M, with over 30 investment groups participating. This additional capital will enable Metagenomi to advance its lead therapeutic programs through preclinical development and clinical proof-of-concept. Furthermore, the Company plans to nominate additional therapeutic targets to its proprietary genetic medicines pipeline, fueled by its automated discovery engine and versatile gene-editing toolbox, to expand into further preclinical proof-of-concept studies.  

$85M: Series B Funding for Genomic and Engineered Cellular Medicines 

Ensoma announced the completion of an $85M Series B financing. The proceeds will enable Ensoma to advance the development of its Engenious in vivo engineered cell therapy platform and accelerate its pipeline of genomic medicines for immuno-oncology and other therapeutic applications. The company also announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Twelve Bio, which has advanced foundational insights from X-ray crystallography and cryogenic electron microscopy to further engineer and evolve CRISPR-Cas12a into wholly novel sequences with unique properties for a range of DNA editing strategies. With the addition of this world-class science to the existing Ensoma platform, the company will be well-positioned to advance the field of genome engineering, develop the next generation of genome editors with gene-writing capabilities, and create a new class of smart immune cell medicines targeting rare and prevalent diseases.  

$30M: Funding for Tankless Nitric Oxide Delivery System 

VERO Biotech announced the successful close of a $30M financing with Petrichor. The proceeds will support further development and commercialization of VERO Biotech’s GENOSYL Delivery System (DS), a tankless inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) delivery system. The third generation of the GENOSYL DS was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and represents a breakthrough in iNO technology, benefitting both providers and patients. Patrick Lally, Partner of Petrichor, has joined the VERO Biotech Board of Directors. Specific details of the financing were not disclosed.  

$20M: Funding for Sector-Specific Accelerator Program 

The University of Chicago unveiled Polsky Deep Tech Ventures, a new initiative offering a suite of sector-specific accelerators, entrepreneurial training, and funding dedicated to supporting startups that bring world-changing science and technology to market. This effort is aligned with the research strengths of UChicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. By providing sector-specific (i.e., data science, clean tech, and life sciences) expertise from University research faculty and industry partners, the accelerators will help startups from across the globe reduce technical and market risk as they position their innovations for real-world impact. The endeavor will be funded by more than $20M in University and philanthropic investments over the next five years. Once fully deployed, Deep Tech Ventures expects to graduate at least 60 startups annually with novel approaches to fight disease, address climate change, improve cybersecurity, and more. Deep Tech Ventures expects to raise an external $25M venture fund in 2023 to support deep tech startups looking for seed-stage and Series A funding. 

$10M: Public Offering for Transcriptome-Wide Profiling, Research, and Development 

HTG Molecular Diagnostics, a precision medicine company working with innovative transcriptome-wide profiling and advanced medicinal chemistry technology, announced the closing of its public offering of an aggregate of 1,290,322 shares of its common stock (or pre-funded warrants in lieu thereof): Series A-1 warrants to purchase up to 1,290,322 shares of common stock and Series A-2 warrants to purchase 1,290,322 shares of common stock at a combined public offering price of $7.75 per share (or pre-funded warrant) and accompanying warrants. The gross proceeds from the offering—before deducting the placement agent's fees and other offering expenses—are approximately $10.0M. The Company intends to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes, which may include research and development expenses, clinical trial expenses, capital expenditures, and working capital.

$4.24M: Series B Funding for Digital Pathology and AI Services

Deciphex announced a further €3.9M in funding bringing its full Series B round tally to €14.4M. The additional investment will allow Deciphex to continue developing its innovative products and services, expand its presence in the UK, Canada, the Middle East, and the US, and strengthen its position as a leader in the digital pathology and AI field. Deciphex offers a range of clinical and research pathology services, including its Patholytix platform for research pathology. Its Diagnexia clinical service provides remote subspecialty pathology services. Diagnexia is the first fully digital, subspeciality-led, remote diagnostic, and consult service. The platform connects laboratories to an international network of subspecialty pathologists who can provide their expertise on clinical cases while vastly reducing turnaround times and ensuring the highest quality of patient care.

$2.17M: Funding for Research Reproducibility Studies 

A major Horizon Europe-funded project—called TIER2—will study research issues to improve reproducibility across diverse scientific contexts. The project will run until December 2025, with total funding of 2 million Euros provided by the EU’s Horizon Europe program and UK Research and Innovation. The project aims to enhance Trust, Integrity, and Efficiency in Research through next-level Reproducibility (TIER2). The project will develop and test new tools, connect initiatives, engage communities, and test novel interventions to increase the reuse and quality of research results across diverse contexts within the social, life, and computer sciences research areas. The project will design, implement, and assess systematic interventions addressing critical levers of change (tools, skills, communities, incentives, and policies). This approach will improve the reuse of resources and the quality of research results in the European research landscape and beyond while increasing trust, integrity, and efficiency.  

Undisclosed Funding Amount for Diagnostic and Surveillance Tool Development 

VisualDx received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop diagnostic and surveillance tools to help medical providers improve treatment decisions and outcomes in underserved areas. VisualDx will expand equitable access to its clinical decision support, artificial intelligence, and machine learning tools to provide guidance, specialist knowledge, and education for providers in low-resource settings. As part of the initiative, VisualDx will support national public health efforts in India and Nigeria by developing country-specific logic for its decision-support platform to enhance surveillance, detection, and triage of Neglected Tropical Diseases and other rare infectious diseases. This is the second Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant VisualDx has received, following a successful 2020 project in Botswana to provide an offline version of its clinical decision support tool for users without internet access in remote areas.  

Undisclosed Funding Amount for Computational Inflammatory Bowel Disease Models 

CytoReason announced an expansion of its collaboration with Sanofi. The multi-year partnership will fuel Sanofi’s target discovery efforts via CytoReason’s AI platform in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to identify patient subtypes and pair them with IBD targets. In 2021, Cytoreason announced the initiation of a project with Sanofi using cell-centered models to suggest mechanistic insights for asthma endotypes. Under the terms of the expanded agreement, Sanofi will pay CytoReason an undisclosed multimillion-dollar amount. Sanofi has previously applied Cytoreason’s cell-centered model to understand asthma patient subtypes better.

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