Fauna | June 15, 2022
Fauna Bio, a biotechnology company pioneering the fields of comparative, computational and translational genomics, is celebrating its fourth birthday this month with the release of Centaur, a knowledge graph that is the first of its kind to visualize the intersection between animal gene expression data and human diseases in one comprehensive map. With Centaur, Fauna Bio is able to more rapidly identify human disease indications and targets to generate new therapeutic solutions for some of the most serious human diseases. Orca is another new update to the Convergence platform, and enables direct comparison of gene expression signatures from naturally disease-resistant species with those from humans. Convergence now leverages genomic analyses across 452 mammal species (65 of which are hibernators), an 86 percent increase from two years ago.
Much of the company's focus is cardiac and pulmonary diseases, where current treatments mainly focus on symptom management rather than treating the underlying condition. Faun1003, a compound discovered through LEO (Fauna Bio's drug prediction module), is being investigated for use in lung injury and pulmonary hypertension. While uniquely differentiated, retrospective analyses of similar compounds show a survival advantage in critical care settings for patients with lung injury that receive this drug, providing additional human support for the target of Faun1003.
Fauna Bio's first neuronal program, Faun264G, looks to improve the survival of human neurons deprived of glucose. A pilot study found knockdown of 264G in-vivo impairs the ability of 13-lined ground squirrels to enter torpor, validating its function. Fauna will continue with expanded in-vivo experiments to understand its role in controlling metabolism this summer. Fauna Bio has also initiated a new discovery program in inflammatory bowel disease, seeking targets to improve epithelial barrier function and reduce immune cell migration. Forty-five percent of compounds predicted for use in IBD by LEO have already been investigated, suggesting strong enrichment for IBD targets. The company has also completed brain cortex and kidney sequencing, with target predictions coming soon.
These updates build on the company's momentum since raising $9M in funding last year. Since then, Fauna has expanded partnerships with leading academic institutions, including the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Monash University in Australia. Both collaborations focus on studying genes from the 13-lined ground squirrel that allow for survival during hibernation under extreme conditions. Monash University will assist in additional pre-clinical testing of Fauna compounds, while UW-O supports the existing colony, additional tissue collections, and in-vivo experiments. Through a new partnership with the University of Nevada - Las Vegas, Fauna will add genes from tenrecs, a second hibernating species, to Fauna Bio's proprietary biobank.
We continue to see how the power of comparative genomics, and looking outside of our own species, is like building a stronger magnet to help us find that elusive needle in the haystack. By introducing a small amount of the right data and applying it in the right way, we can more quickly identify the real opportunities to make a difference for people suffering from diseases with unmet needs, We've had incredible support from the National Human Genomics Research Institute, the National Institute of Health, our investors, and advisors to continue educating and bringing these programs closer to finding real therapeutic solutions for many of the worst human diseases."
Ashley Zehnder, Ph.D., D.V.M, CEO of Fauna Bio.
About Fauna Bio
Fauna Bio is an end-to-end target and drug discovery platform company and a pioneer in computational, comparative and translational genomics. Fauna Bio is mining the shared genetics between mammals and humans to pinpoint specific genes and pathways that result in disease resistance to some of the most common and deadly human diseases. With a proprietary biobank that includes thousands of tissue samples across multiple species and time points, unparalleled data curation, comparative genomics, machine learning-based target predictions and compound predictions, the Fauna Bio platform identifies extraordinary genes which are highly conserved across species and predicts small molecules that replicate disease resistance to jumpstart human drug development.
Aanika Biosciences | December 01, 2021
Biotech start-up Aanika Biosciences today announced the initial closing of its $12 million Series A round, led by Jon Cholak of Adit Ventures along with existing investors Draper Associates and SOSV. The investment will help scale the company’s food tracing technology platform, advance research and expand its Brooklyn food safety and manufacturing facility to approximately 30,000 square feet.
Aanika's proprietary technology is designed to accelerate the speed and accuracy of how food safety issues are handled. The platform, which uses edible microbial ‘tags,’ has already been tested on leafy greens and has the potential to be applied to other foods and ingredients including oils, coffee, meats and grains.
“Innovation in food safety is long overdue, and there couldn’t be a more important time to bring a technology like this to the market. The pandemic has truly exposed the fragility of our supply chain. Being able to expand and build out our capability will give farmers, insurers, food companies and consumers an added layer of transparency and security, as well as minimize the economic and environmental impact of food recalls.”
Dr. Ellen Jorgensen, Chief Science Officer for Aanika
The technology enables farmers to 'watermark' crops with edible, food-friendly microbes that can be detected at any point in the product’s journey through the supply chain, so that when there is a case of foodborne illness it can be traced directly to the source.
“Foodborne illness impacts over 50 million people and costs the U.S. tens of billions of dollars a year. Our technology can help minimize the impact and we are developing solutions that may prevent it from happening in the first place,” said co-founder and CEO of Aanika, Vishaal Bhuyan. “Identifying the origin of food recalls is just the start of what this platform can do. We are excited to see how far we can push our microbial technology to add value in the form of combating contamination, increasing nutritional content and supporting crop health. We are also exploring how our technology can even revolutionize agricultural insurance underwriting. All of this is driven by the power of biology.”
"We believe Aanika could transform the food system as their traceability technology can integrate with the blockchain and ensure high quality data from end-to-end,” said Tim Draper, Founder and Managing Partner of Draper Associates.
About Aanika Biosciences
Aanika Biosciences was co-founded in 2018 by Vishaal Bhuyan after he personally experienced the consequences of ordering fresh, ethically sourced seeds and receiving stale, contaminated products instead. He made it is his mission to create a safer food supply by finding a way to track, trace and authenticate products. Aanika’s customized microbial-based tags help companies gain valuable insights about their supply chains, help their customers make better consumption choices, and create a more sustainable world.
CELL AND GENE THERAPY
Mekonos, Inc. | November 10, 2021
Mekonos, a biotech company building the future of cell therapies on a chip, has raised $25M in an oversubscribed Series A round co-led by Reimagined Ventures, Fiscus Ventures, and PEAK6 Strategic Capital, a division of PEAK6 Investments. New institutional and strategic investors, including Section 32, Sands Capital, TDK Ventures, and the venture arm of Debiopharm, and previous investors, including Novartis Pharma AG (dRx Capital) and Elementum Ventures, also joined in the funding round that will support Mekonos' next stages in product development and commercialization.
Mekonos has developed a novel chip technology platform that supports ex-vivo delivery of cell payloads at the single cell level. The platform allows for multi-payload physical delivery – multiplexing – into cells with repeatable and localized dose control for precise and scalable cell engineering. Demonstration pilot projects with top pharmaceutical and research labs have shown outstanding cell viability and uptake in delivery of CRISPR and other payloads into immune cells, stem cells, and other fragile cell types.
"Mekonos' novel technology is solving a critical pain point in an area of cell and gene therapy that hasn't seen significant innovation in 20+ years," said Neil Tiwari, who is joining Mekonos' Board of Directors to represent the lead investors. "Mekonos has an exceptional leadership team equipped to further the impact of its technology and partnerships. The company is well-positioned to play a lead role in the significant and fast-growing addressable market for cell and gene therapy solutions that deliver accessible personalized medicine."
"Mekonos is bringing truly disruptive cell engineering technology to reality. This investment aligns well with our aim to support the development of novel drug delivery systems and further explore the possibilities that digital platforms can bring to science and ultimately patients. We look forward to observing firsthand the improvements that Mekonos' plateform can bring to cell and gene therapeutics,"
Lambert Potin, Partnering Associate, Search and Evaluation, Debiopharm
Mekonos will use the new capital to expand its MEMS, Microfluidics, Biology, and Business Development functions in order to advance its proprietary, integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) for targeted ex vivo gene engineering. Jake Lesnik, previously an executive at System Biosciences, has also joined as VP of Business Development to expand partnerships and drive commercial strategy for Mekonos' market-leading cell engineering and therapeutics development platform.
"announcement is a clear signal that Mekonos is building critical infrastructure to unlock personalized medicine at scale and enable cell engineering across life science verticals. We are proud and humbled to work with top tier venture and strategic investors, and to exceed our initial goals for this fundraising round," said Anil Narasimha, CEO and Co-founder of Mekonos. "We are excited to partner with leading investors who share our vision for developing a new era of cell engineering that can simplify individualized treatments across disease spaces."
About Mekonos, Inc.
Mekonos is an enabling technology company transforming synthetic biology and personalized medicine. The company's SoC merges innovations in MEMS, microfluidics, and chemistry for controlled and individualized molecular delivery in cells at scale. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, is backed by leading investors in both healthcare and technology, and is an alum of Berkeley Launch, Berkeley SkyDeck, Creative Destruction Lab, and named a 2018 Fierce 15 startup.