San Francisco- and Singapore-based Biotech Company Raises $10 Million in Seed Round from Leading American and Asian Investors
Engine Biosciences (“Engine”), the biotech company pioneering its artificial intelligence and genomics network biomedicine platform to unleash faster and more effective drug discovery, today announced a $10 million round of seed funding. The heavily oversubscribed round was co-led by Silicon Valley-based DHVC (Danhua Capital) and 6 Dimensions Capital (formed through merger of Frontline Bioventures and WuXi Healthcare Ventures in May 2017), with participation from global biopharmaceutical leader WuXi AppTec, EDBI (a Singapore-based global fund), Pavilion Capital (a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings), Baidu Ventures, WI Harper, and Nest.Bio Ventures.
The seed funding will support Engine as it builds its drug discovery platform, expands its scientific and executive team in both Singapore and San Francisco, and pursues preclinical studies internally and with partners, which currently include leading research institutions and a prominent US Fortune 500 company.
Engine’s data-driven drug discovery platform combines massively parallel biological experimentation with artificial intelligence (“AI”) to discover and develop better therapies for important human diseases. The platform builds on the pioneering work of Engine’s scientific founders and leaders, including Co-Founder and MIT tenured Associate Professor Timothy Lu, Scientific Founder and Mayo Clinic Assistant Professor Hu Li, Scientific Founder and University of California San Diego Assistant Professor Prashant Mali, and Co-Chair of Scientific Advisory Board and MIT Professor Jim Collins. Collectively, they have published several papers related to Engine’s platform in peer-reviewed journals including Science, Cell, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, PNAS, and others.
Compared with conventional drug discovery approaches, which are too slow and costly to test and map the huge number of genetic interactions that underlie diseases, Engine’s platform drives orders-of-magnitude gains in speed and scale. By understanding and testing these genetic interactions in parallel and using machine learning and deep learning algorithms to analyze and learn from the resulting datasets, Engine can decipher biological networks that until this point have vexed drug developers and researchers and enable more rational drug discovery for both single and combination therapies.
“The biopharmaceutical industry needs better approaches for R&D to deliver therapies to patients in need faster. Legacy approaches mean that in many cases, we still have a weak understanding of what drives disease and correspondingly, how to treat or prevent it,” said Engine Biosciences Co-Founder and CEO Jeffrey Lu. “Engine’s data-driven platform allows researchers to uncover the critical gene interactions underlying diseases and also test therapies that specifically target these interactions in a faster, cheaper and more precise fashion than currently possible.”
Lu adds: “We are honored to have a group of internationally renowned investors with deep domain expertise both in biotech and artificial intelligence, validating our approach and supporting our vision.”
To date, Engine’s technology is being applied across four areas: drug repositioning, which applies known drugs to novel indications; new target discovery, which identifies biological factors that underlie disease; precision medicine enablement to support unique treatments based on a patient’s particular genetic makeup; and pathway analysis. Engine has achieved proof of concept across various disease indications and cell types and has active programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, autoimmune, and skin.
“The lack of insight into complex and multi-factorial biological processes within cells contributes to the high failure rate across the drug development cycle. Engine Biosciences has pioneered a new approach to address this by generating novel data and insights that are highly relevant to the biological process,” said Dr. Leon Chen, Founding CEO of 6 Dimensions Capital and member of Engine’s Board of Directors. “We expect that the company’s AI platform will lead to insightful information in complex diseases’ pathways that was not previously possible using traditional wet lab centric biology research, and we are excited to support the team with our investment.”
Added Stanford Professor Shoucheng Zhang, founding Chairman of DHVC and a member of Engine’s Board of Directors: “The breadth and scalability of Engine’s technology platform and proprietary data generation capabilities present a unique opportunity to build significant data leadership and impact many areas within the huge pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. We are excited to be playing a part in making it possible.”