An AI drug discovery biotech backed by women biotech VCs
New York, NY (November 28, 2017) – Envisagenics, Inc., a biotechnology company that applies Artificial Intelligence to the genetic sequence of patients to discover new therapies, announced today that is has raised $2.35M in its seed round. The investors include Third Kind Venture Capital (3KVC), Cosine, LLC (NYC biotech investors), Dolby Family Ventures, Dynamk Capital, NY Empire State Development (ESD), and SV Angel.
Envisagenics’ proprietary discovery platform, SpliceCore™, can identify new ribonucleic acid (RNA) targets and design new drugs to correct RNA splicing errors in cancer and genetic diseases. Envisagenics launched their commercial product, SpliceCore, at Unboxing on October 19, 2017, featuring pitches and demos from Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs portfolio companies and has been invited to demo the platform at the Technology for Precision Health Summit on December 12, 2017.
Envisagenics is one of the first life science companies selected to receive investment from the New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund administered by Empire State Development, a $100M fund established in 2014 to promote commercialization of new technologies and drive economic growth.
Leading Envisagenics seed round, is an impressive group of women investors, namely Daniella Kranjac, co-founder and managing director of Dynamk Capital, Shana Fisher, founder of 3KVC; and Gillian Sandler, of Cosine, LLC. They join Lindy Fishburne, Hemai Parthasarathy, and Julia Moore, who manage Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs.
“It is great to have the support of established female investors with the experience to scale companies and accelerate drug discovery. It’s exciting to be part of changing the landscape of venture investments in female founders” said Dr. Maria Luisa Pineda, co-founder and CEO of Envisagenics. Daniella Kranjac, co-founder and managing director of Dynamk Capital, who led the seed round of Envisagenics said, “Envisagenics is disrupting traditional drug discovery through applied machine learning and AI. We are excited to see the commercialization of SpliceCore enable biopharma leaders to accelerate critical discovery efforts for life-saving therapeutics.”
Envisagenics SpliceCore is a cloud-based platform that uses machine learning to prioritize new drug target candidates from patients’ RNA, our genetic blueprint. Envisagenics focuses on RNA splicing, a cellular process occurring in every cell, that ‘edits’ RNA to produce functional proteins required for our body to work.
Errors in this process can cause devastating diseases: at least 370 genetic diseases identified to date can be caused by splicing errors, such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a neurodegenerative disease that kills more children than any other genetic disease. “Discovering RNA splicing errors and learning how to fix them at the same time is a fantastic problem to solve with AI” says Dr. Martin Akerman, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Envisagenics. “Once you find a disease-causing splicing error with SpliceCore, you are halfway to finding an RNA-therapeutic drug that acts directly on the RNA.” The SpliceCore technology was developed by Envisagenics’ CTO while at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in the Laboratories of Dr. Michael Q. Zhang, a leading scientist in genomic research and with Dr. Adrian Krainer, a leader in the RNA splicing field who was also an inventor of the FDA-approved Spinraza (Nusinersen) for the treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
Envisagenics is supported by an outstanding Scientific Advisory Board composed of the world leading experts in the fields of computational biology and RNA research which include Dr. Adrian Krainer, the St. Giles Foundation Professor of Molecular Genetics at CSHL, Program Chair of Cancer & Molecular Biology, and Research Faculty Member of the Watson School of Biological Sciences; Dr. Michael Q. Zhang, Director of the Center for Systems Biology and Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair of Systems Biology Science at the University of Texas at Dallas; and Michael Schatz, PhD, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. The company has also developed collaborations with top research universities in New York City to drive continued development of its technology. Envisagenics has previously been funded by Accelerate LI, the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, Breakout Labs by the Thiel Foundation, and is a recipient of a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health. The seed funding and financial support from Breakout Labs, Envisagenics has grown to a team of eight and has gained traction among biopharmaceutical companies because Envisagenics technology is unlocking a world of possibilities using RNA-seq data and AI as a vehicle for drug discovery.
Envisagenics was founded in 2014 as a spinout of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The company’s mission is to boost the creation of new therapies for human diseases by reducing the complexity of biomedical big data into plausible solutions. Envisagenics focuses on the discovery of RNA therapeutics. Over 30 million people in the US suffer from genetic diseases or cancer that could be caused by mutations affecting RNA splicing. 370 human diseases are known to be caused by splicing errors, and more remain to be discovered.
Envisagenics’ breakthrough technology, SpliceCore, is a cloud-based platform that is experimentally validated to predict drug targets and biomarkers through splicing discovery from RNA-seq data, using Artificial Intelligence. The company will use its software to identify new splicing errors causative of the disease, identify the right drug-targets and develop RNA therapeutics through partnerships and collaborations with Biopharma. Envisagenics’ in-silico RNA therapeutics discovery platform replaces expensive drug-target selection and lead design with efficient computer simulations, decreasing time, cost, and failure risk of drug development programs. For more information, visit www.envisagenics.com.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program hosts more than 12,000 scientists from around the world each year on its campuses in Long Island and in Suzhou, China. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu.
About Dolby Family Ventures
Dolby Family Ventures is an early stage venture firm focused on building great technology companies. The fund partners with best-in-class innovators and strong investment syndicate partners at the seed stage of a company’s development. The fund honors the legacy of Ray Dolby and his commitment to engineers and their vision to solve the world’s toughest problems. Dolby Family Ventures formalizes the Dolby family’s ongoing, multi-generational commitment to discovering and supporting visionary entrepreneurs. Dolby Family Ventures is jointly managed by David Dolby, son of Ray Dolby, and veteran venture capitalist Pascal Levensohn.
About Dynamk Capital
Dynamk Capital LLC is a venture capital firm investing in early stage life sciences companies. Dynamk’s investment strategy is centered on identifying companies developing disruptive technologies, tools and services that enable the full biopharma continuum across discovery, development and manufacturing of therapeutics. Dynamk partners with its portfolio companies providing insights, strategy and business development and commercial execution support. The Dynamk team includes experienced life science entrepreneurs, investors, advisors and subject matter experts.
About the NYS Innovation Venture Capital Fund
The Innovation Venture Capital Fund administered by Empire State Development is a $100 million venture capital fund that invests in seed and early stage businesses throughout New York State. The Fund provides critical funding to promote the commercialization of new technologies, encourage job creation and drive economic growth. The Fund makes direct equity investments in companies with an emphasis on strategic industries such as information technology, life sciences, clean energy, and advanced manufacturing. Initial investments typically range in size from $500,000 to $1.5 million and require at least a 2:1 match from private sources at the time of investment.
About SV Angel
SV Angel is a San Francisco-based seed fund founded by Ron Conway. SV Angel provides seed investment and advice to early stage companies. SV Angel takes a portfolio approach to seed investing, differing from a traditional venture capital firm by not taking board seats and investing a larger number of companies. SV Angel leverages a best in class relationship network to help startups with business development, financing, M&A and other strategic advice. Over the last 20 years the firm and partners have invested and advised companies such as Facebook, Google, PayPal, Dropbox, Airbnb, Pinterest, Twitter, SnapChat, Square, Cloudera and many more.
About Third Kind Venture Capital
Third Kind Venture Capital is a New York-based venture capital fund focused on early-stage investments.
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